What Does Your Pain Want From You?


A young woman came into my office last week with excruciating neck pain that began suddenly with no prior trauma or injury. Her neck and upper back were locked in what is clinically known as “torticollis.”

As I began to work with her, I gently touched her stiff neck, as she winced with pain, and asked, “What do you think is going on here? Why do you think this is happening?”

She replied that she didn’t know.

I said, “Pain is your physiology letting you know that you need to pay attention and that something needs to change.” I asked her, “What do you think you need to pay attention to? What needs to change?”

She said that everything was “fine” and that she just wanted to get rid of the pain and get back to work and living her normal life.

I said, “Your pain is so intense that you’re having to disrupt your normal routine and stop. Do you ever really stop doing?”

“No…never.” was her reply. “I have way too much to take care of.”

I asked her, “What do you think would happen if you just put your hand on your neck and acknowledged and ACCEPTED that this is where you’re at right now? What if you stop trying to be somewhere you’re not and let the pain fully communicate with you?”

She said, “If I did this, I would have to stop. I don’t want to stop. I need to exercise, I need to go to work. I have kids to take care of…I can’t accept this pain. I can’t accept it.”

I find that people are often so afraid of being where they currently are, that they override the feedback, containing the wisdom that will transform their lives, with drugs, food, TV… whatever helps them check out.

Only when you acknowledge where you are, and accept it, can you grow and evolve. The same principle holds true in every aspect of life. Physical pain is no exception.

If you are experiencing pain, place your hand on that area. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t try to change the pain.

Observe it. Feel it. Make the sound of it.

Experience the color of it. Discover the borders of it. Then, let the borders expand. Let the pain travel. Your mind makes up the concept of borders.  Really, there is energy in an area of your body that you’re unable to integrate.

The inability to be present with that energy is what amplifies the pain. Keep your hand, or hands, on the area and stay present.

What does the pain want from you? Ask it.

Don’t try figure it out. Just ask, and then pay attention. Do you need rest? Do you need to hold that part and cry or scream? Do you need to seek medical attention? Do you need to slow down? Do you need to speak up about something?

Don’t give the pain your attention, and don’t try to fix it either. Seek to be with this pain, as you would be with a crying baby that you can only give love to, even if it doesn’t stop crying.

Accept that part of you for what it is communicating.  Accept that “this is where I’m really at” and notice what happens.

Learn how the tool of Somato Respiratory Integration can help you accept where you’re at more easily.

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About John Amaral

Santa Cruz Chiropractor Dr. John Amaral has helped thousands of people from over 50 countries transform and awaken to more meaningful and purposeful lives. Follow him on twitter at @johnamaral