If you want to begin truly healing, you must feel into your pain, all the way in—I know that sounds unpleasant or even unbearable, but the alternative—being stuck in chronic pain—could be worse. From what I've learned in almost twenty years of my physical therapy practice, embracing it is how you begin to heal from the inside out.
When pain is a familiar feeling.
If you have chronic pain, it may have been so long since you’ve felt good that now you’re just used to feeling subpar all the time. You try to ignore the pain the best you can and push forward. But it’s always there, lurking, creating other aches and pains, stealing joy from your days.
Whether you've reached your limit or you simply want to feel better, know that you deserve to heal. You’ve probably tried lots of ways to end your pain that mask the symptoms but don't get to the root cause. We’re usually so focused on getting rid of pain that we don’t listen to the message it’s sending.
What your pain is really trying to tell you.
That’s really all pain is—a warning signal that something in our body might need attention.
It’s possible you haven’t been hearing the true message your body’s trying to send, and so your pain lingers. And here’s another sneaky thing about pain—the source of your pain may not always be where you’re feeling it. Keeping this complex nature of chronic pain in mind can help in understanding why healing isn’t usually straightforward.
So, how do you actually embrace your pain so you can heal? These five steps will get you started:
1. Notice and accept your pain.
Pain won’t go away just because you try to ignore it. It’ll still be there under the surface, nagging at you and making you worried and anxious, which only leads to more pain. Making the choice to acknowledge your pain is the first step to embracing it.
2. Feel your pain.
If you’ve been blocking it out so you can make it through the day, you might not be fully aware of the nuances of your pain or what message it’s trying to send.
Find a quiet place to just be present and bring your awareness inward. Notice how your body feels physically and what emotions may be coming up. This is going to intensify things and bring them up to the surface. And despite the fact that this will be uncomfortable, it’s a necessary part of healing.
No need to analyze or ask why. Focus on what you feel—that’s where the pain’s stuck. After years of practice I believe this is true: We can’t heal what we don’t feel.
3. Relax into your pain.
With increased awareness of what you’re feeling, you can make choices. You’re able to soften the grip it has on you.
When we’re in pain, our bodies hold a lot of tension everywhere, perpetuating the cycle of pain. So, as you become more in tune with the messages your body is sending, you’ll be able to send messages back that say, "I hear you and it’s safe—I can let go of this pain and tension now."
When you view pain as simply a warning and you show yourself some kindness, you’re allowing your mind and subsequently, your body, to gradually let go of pain. It's a process.
4. Try this tension reliever.
Many of us hold tension in our jaw. Feel if it’s the same for you and then let your jaw soften and see if you can soften more through the rest of your body. Feel how this changes your pain level; even the tiniest bit is a big deal. It’s OK if you don’t sense a difference right away, keep practicing with patience, you’ll get there.
It's not quick and easy to overcome chronic pain—but every little release counts as you enhance your connection with yourself.
5. Trust that healing is possible!
It won’t happen overnight and I can’t tell you how long it will take. Take any pressure off yourself to feel something in a certain amount of time, be patient and with diligence, time, and support from your healers, therapists, and yourself, it will happen. Keep noticing what you feel, be open, and trust your body’s amazing ability to heal.
This is a primer, of course. But believing this with every cell in your body is what creates change. By listening to and understanding our pain, from its origin to its manifestation, we can begin to heal from the inside out.