Navigating Pain ResponsesMay 23, 2023
A couple of weeks ago, my lower back was not happy, I had this intense pain at the base of my sacrum. To give you an idea of where that is at, the sacrum is the triangular bone at the base of your spine, the base is the widest part at the top. For me, pain in this area has been a recurring issue and has happened a handful of times before, but hasn’t been activated in over three years.
I've been practicing this tuck balance thing, which is like a handstand with your knees tucked into your chest. When I perform that movement, I have a tendency to hyperextend my lower back, which places a significant amount of pressure on it. The Sunday night before the pain really started, I went a bit too hard with my practice, dumping into my low back, which was definitely a main contributing factor that led to my pain response.
The following day the pain in my back just kept getting worse as the day went on. And the thing is, I know this kind of pain all too well. Even though I had an idea of the biomechanical challenge that led to the pain, I knew it wasn’t just physical, but was also tied to my emotions and how I was feeling inside.
Where I was feeling the pain, at the base of my sacrum, is connected to the second chakra in the chakra system. It's called the sacral chakra and it's related to stability, security, and finances. Personally, I've been feeling some financial instability and insecurity from a few different large and unexpected expenses which had been creating a lot of internal emotional stress that I kept trying to push down. I was trying my best to keep it together and trust that everything will work out, but clearly, my body was showing me that I was holding onto too much.
The sacral plexus is a nerve branch that's located in that area. And let me tell you, those nerves were not happy. They were really agitated and aggravated, which made any position that put pressure on that branch even more painful for me. Walking was especially tough because it created these little surges of nerve pain.
I'm sure some of you can relate to what I'm talking about, maybe you've experienced something similar with a pain response in a different part of your body. But what happens when it becomes chronic or just keeps recurring?
Most of the time, pain is not just physical. I like to think of pain using a biopsychosocial model, meaning it's influenced by biology, psychology, and sociology. We need to take a holistic approach and look at the whole person, not just the physical symptoms.
Pain is not just about the physical. There's often a biomechanical and emotional component to it. In my case, the pain in my lower back was induced by hyperextending it repeatedly while doing the tucked balance. However, I believe the pain became more intense because of my emotional state. My body was telling me to slow down and take care of myself instead of just pushing through and trusting that everything will work out. It was a signal for me to acknowledge and address the insecurities and instabilities that were surfacing, rather than just trying to take action and move past them without addressing the root cause.
So when I experienced this pain response, the first thing I did was to acknowledge it and name it for what it was. I realized that simply acknowledging the pain rather than trying to suppress it or push it away was surprisingly helpful in allowing me to better understand and deal with it.
I reminded myself that there was no actual injury and that the pain was just a response from my nervous system. It was important for me to recognize that I was safe and not in any harm. When we experience chronic or recurring pain, it's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like something is fundamentally wrong with us. But this kind of negative thinking can actually amplify the pain signals being sent by the brain.
When we experience pain, it's the nerves in our body that send a danger message to the brain. In my case, it was the nerves innervating my lower back that were sending this message because I was hyperextending it. The brain then decides what output to generate in response to this message.
In essence, when we are under stress or have fear present, the brain is more prone to generating a pain response. From a bio-psycho-social perspective, this can happen because our emotional state plays a significant role in the pain response. In my case, I was feeling financially insecure due to unexpected expenses that occurred within a two week period. Although I knew I was okay, this sense of instability activated my Sacral Chakra, which is associated with security and finances, and coincidentally located in my low back region.
Whenever I felt those nerve zings, especially when walking my dog and my heel first struck the ground, the discomfort was unbearable. I would walk funny and take deep breaths, reminding myself that I am safe and okay. In my case, I found it helpful to repeat affirmations like "I am okay", "I am taken care of", and "I am financially stable and secure". These affirmations felt believable and within reach, and helped me ease the nerve pain.
What's really important is to choose something that feels believable to you. Don't aim for an overly positive affirmation if it doesn't currently feel true for you. Some other options you can try include "I am safe", "I will be okay", or "My body is not broken". All of these can help reinforce your brain, mind, and nervous system, and bring a sense of calm and stability.
To add to that, bringing awareness to your breath is crucial. You can start by focusing on lengthening your exhale, as a longer exhale can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digestion, and healing. By doing so, you can gradually shift out of the stress response and into a more relaxed state.
This is just a small piece of what I did and what you can do for yourself when you find yourself in a pain loop. There are several other purposeful practices I did, that I will share further on in the coming weeks.
Let me know if this was helpful for you and if there is anything that you need clarification on to help better support you in learning about the pain response in your body.
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