“Anne,” the client I wrote about in my last post, had been turned down by several medical practitioners before she found me. “No one will touch me,” she said. The frustration of not being able to find someone who is willing to help can often exacerbate the pain that one is looking to relieve. What is it like to be told that there is “nothing wrong,” that it’s “all in your head,” or that you’re “too risky” to work with?
What emotions are involved when you feel that no one is listening to you when you talk about your pain? My clients tell me they’ve felt anger, frustration, anxiety, and confusion. These are all emotions that can cause reflexive muscular tension, such as clenching of the jaw, collapsing forward in a slumped posture as the abdominal muscles contract, or contracting the back as if girding oneself for a battle. Imagine this muscular tension in addition to whatever muscle pain is already being experienced, and matters only get worse.
When I tell clients about the studies done that prove that there is no thought that goes through one’s brain that is not responded to muscularly in the body, they are amazed and relieved. Some realize that their emotional stress and the way in which they contract their muscles in response to that stress is what created their original problem in the first place. Understanding how our thoughts and feelings affect our muscles, and how on-going emotional stress can begin to create tight, clenched muscles is a crucial step to getting rid of pain and keeping it away.
Remember that anything we do consistently becomes a habit, and that includes tightening muscles in response to physical, repetitive, or emotional stress. This can create Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA): the state of habitually contracted muscles that causes conditions like sciatica, TMJ, shallow breathing, knee pain, and back pain. Only mindful, aware, and consistent reeducation of the muscles can reverse that condition and give you back muscle control.
Next time you’re emotionally stressed, take a minute, close your eyes, and listen to your heartbeat. Inhale deeply. Let your belly relax. Then reach up like the little boy in the photo and stretch. Let the tension out, feel the muscles tighten, then relax as you change that state of tension to one of relaxation.