Subjective Pain Experience: retraining pain with massage by Frank Carone
The Chakra Series: The 7th Chakra and The Emperor's New Clothes by Rina Thibault
We are all victims of pain to some degree, no matter what age; pain experiences go from discomfort to agony.
Through my practice of massage, I have encountered people who live with extreme pain every day. This experience of chronic pain is a phenomenon that tests the very human will. The problem is, the longer we are living with pain, the greater the chance that the perception of pain grows more sensitive. After about 5 years of pain, the map in our brain that regulates that area of the body looses precision. It becomes a block. The brain clusters and the associated body area become a solid undefined area in structure and function. Our nervous system is usually good at interpreting the actual danger level, however, once in a cycle of pain, the brain adapts and hard wires into a life of pain. In fact, our nervous system produces pain without our conscious control. We actually feel pain where there is no stimulus to cause it. There is a natural disconnect between tissue damage and pain.
How pain works: something enters skin or body is irritated from inside – activates Pacinian Corpuscles (fast conducting myelinated nerves) – neurotransmitters activate other nerves in the Spinal Cord -Nociceptors – Danger Receptors, tell the Brain (in the opposite hemisphere) of a threat to the body’s integrity - The brain tells the Thalamus at the base of the brain, which works out if there are other distractions to worry about. The brain then works out what to do. If the brain then decides the response required for the stimulus. Normally we move away from pain unless the brain overrides that.
Pain is the end point, a symptom. It is totally subjective, outside our awareness or control. It is our most important protective mechanism. Threats of all kinds are constantly being sensed and analysed. Our personalized relationship with pain, determines what we feel with a stimulus. A 6/10 on the pain scale for one, could be, a 12/10 for another.
Many strange experiences are endured by people with chronic pain giving the sensation of altered body awareness: “splitting headache” – the feeling of actually being beside yourself in pain; “stabbing pain in the back” – some feel as if a knife is in their back which makes them feel as if they cannot move or breathe; pain can bring forth feelings of swelling, loss of control in limbs, and internal organs feeling out of place, when there is no real physical change in that area.
How we communicate pain is also similar to what happens physiologically. We learn pain patterns and then, if painful enough, we disconnect from our body. We start to use figures of speech: “screaming pain “ , “ burns like fire “ , “ suffocating pain” – whatever our experience it is very difficult to explain to others what it feels like. Our experience of pain become cyclical and then hard wired. We begin to anticipate pain before it arrives. The pain mechanism begins to become integrated into our daily life. We have gone from a protective mechanism to a ‘knee– jerk–reaction’. The figures of speech become stereotypes, and only ineffable pain remains.
Chronic pain is the number one health issue in our society, and chronic back pain is most common. From one mechanism of pain comes, secondary and tertiary compensation patterns, resulting in gripping and tension in entire parts of the body. The mind, breath, blood, nutrients, and, and nerve conduction are cut off from entire areas of the body. We want to move but we are limited by pain. We suffer in our own fear of pain.
Our emotions and beliefs influence how we feel about pain. That is why a paper-cut to a guitar player can really hurt, because there is a highly concentrated area of nerves in the fingertip. Much of the guitar player’s life is conducted through those fingertips. They may experience more pain with a paper-cut, than others who do not make a living with their fingertips. How we feel about a pain stimulus will be determined by our individual life experience and training.
Massage is a natural way to change how we feel about our body and our experience of pain. Just a pin prick, a hammer to the thumb, or shin on the coffee table, and our hand is there to rub it to make it feel better. We use the nervous system to soothe our nervous system. Our bodies are a source of pleasure and pain. I believe we can train ourselves to experience pain OR pleasure. The body is the source of consciousness, and it is vital to learn early or late in life that we can learn to use our nerves and internal chemistry to feel good, or, noxious.
Mediation, Qi Gong, and Massage are ways of, purging disturbed energy, noxious chemicals, and compulsive thought patterns. They are also important in re-establishing the mind, breath, and blood into the body again; where we can relearn nerve connections that favor pleasure to pain. These methods can strengthen the weak, and soften the hard blockages and re-establish the map in the brain giving definition to the pain, thus limiting its hold on the attention of the brain, giving us back the control of our nervous system and our lives.
Clothes say a lot. They can tell a lot about a person’s attitudes and beliefs, especially identity. Living in a four seasons place, I have quite a few too many clothes. But they are necessary for my survival in extremely cold and hot climates. The 7th Chakra, Sahasrara, is located at the top of the head and correlates to our universal identity. Universal identity is how we relate to the rest of the world, and how we dress tells others how we want to be seen.
On a psychological level, the 7th Chakra deals with how we derive meaning and become more conscious of the interconnectedness we share with our surroundings and people. But how does one become conscious or aware of the deeper structure of the fabric of life?
“If we want to see what consciousness looks like, we need only to look around us.” Anodea Judith
Everything around us, the material world, is the product of consciousness. Every object we see, touch, hear and smell is from the birth of an idea. In Yoga, they call this level of awareness, the bindu, the birthplace of ideas. The problem that arises with the 7th Chakra is attachment. Attachment is the basis of suffering. Let us use the classic children’s tale, the Emperor’s New Clothes as an analogy to our own 7th Chakra.
The story is about an Emperor who enjoys fancy things and wanted to wear clothing only fit for someone of higher “power”. He gets his seamstress’ to make him only clothes he can wear. So, they made him nothing and told him the fabric becomes invisible on those of higher worth. And of course, he parades the downtown showing off his new “clothes”, until a child in the audience makes a remark on his "nudeness"; the Emperor ignored him and continued on with his procession. The Emperor represents an aspect of our self; one of our many identities (mother, father, worker, etc.) . Like the emperor, we buy things with our money, such as fancy clothes to demonstrate our strong sense of being. Since we have many kinds of clothes for different functions and occasions, we also have many kinds of identities.
When we begin to strip away the layers of clothing (cultural beliefs, attitudes, opinions, judgements, etc.), we begin experiencing the letting go of attachment. Like the emperor wearing nothing, we start to feel a sense of nakedness because we are shifting our consciousness and beginning to direct our psychic energies towards a universal identity. This transcendence of identity becomes a witness to the ebbs and flow of our lives. Letting go of attachment and control releases our fixation on the outside aspects of our self.
Realizing our consciousness also involves going through external and internal pain, and suffering. They become the most important teachers in our life.
“Suffering may force a new perspective and perception about what is reality. It can weaken the ego through repeated frustration just enough to allow a giving up or surrendering, which opens the person to the possibility of transcending his or her previous belief systems and levels of consciousness.” Charles Whitfield
At METAbodyWORKS, we use massage as a holistic approach to release and work through pain in a safe and trusting environment. It shifts the conscious mind to become aware and reflect on an individual’s holding patterns. These holding patterns, whether internal or external are key triggers to shifting your consciousness to higher vibrations and returning you to a healthier mind, body and spirit.
“He who knows others is wise, but he who knows himself is enlightened.” Lao Tzu Book your next therapeutic Thai Massage! Call or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was taught early on by Kikkawa Sensei that to have effective massage, you have to follow the nerve flow from problem areas; that the Mind of the client is just behind their skin via the nervous system. He believed (and as I am now learning), that balance is achieved in all systems by the nervous system modulation. Science is working on this as well. They call this study NeuroImmunoEndocronology. While science uses drugs to modulate the Nervous System, massage pressure and techniques applied correctly with a meditative mindset can achieve a calm Central Nervous System in the client. Neuroimmunoendocronology. Nervous system+ Immune system+Endocrine System; these are part of the fundamental regulatory systems of homeostasis (whereby the body’s internal environment is kept stable, despite external changes). Everyone wants to know how to reduce stress. Most recent developments in research are, how thought affects the brain, and how the brain modulates endocrine and immune response. A thought, or, a fever / Infection, can cause stress. Stress causes disease because the brain is the master controller. Under stress, chemicals released from the brain (Cytokines)- mainly by the HPA axis ( Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis). Together with the Sympathetic Nervous System, the HPA axis regulates Immunity and Inflammation response. So here is where things get interesting. Chronic stress changes the chemical balance in our body. If stress hormones are produced for long enough it can cause depression by interfering with neurohormones like serotonin and dopamine. Basically, worry, fear, stress, increases stress hormones which modulates the immune and inflammation responses. This is great for survival. When we need to be on alert; however, the body often overreacts. Too much of the pro-inflammatory hormones can actually weaken the immune system, making us prone to infection. Also, this leaves us open to chronic stress, pain, and overall inflammation – like a low grade cold that doesn’t go away. It can make you allergic to something when before you weren’t. Brain degeneration disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and MS are also associated with chronic stress. The Immune system influences the hormonal system and vice versa. Feedback loops are modulated by one and all of these systems, if one changes the others will change. As a Bodyworker, it is our job to intervene into the negative feedback loop of stress, pain, and inflammation. We do this by stimulating the Parasympathetic Nervous System and working with the inflammation stagnation, by touch, Hydrotherapy, and energy work; thus allowing the body's natural healing properties to work. By stimulating the Parasympathetic Nervous System ( which governs the ‘rest and digest” functions) we can promote the anti-inflammatory hormones to circulate. By the rhythmic compressions and oscillations of therapeutic techniques applied by the therapist to the client’ meridian and acupressure system, a deep relaxation occurs – thus changing the chemical constitution in the brain. We can do this on our own, by being positive. To never allow negative thoughts or unneeded worried linger too long. Feedback loops need little to engage – either positively or negatively. It is up to us to be in control of our thoughts. Depression breeds depression, contentment breeds joy. Meditation, massage, Martial Arts and Yoga are ancient ways of regulating the Mind-Body chemical communication.
Image courtesy of Sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Why Your Masseuse Matters to Your Health by Rina Thibault
Many of us are struggling to get our physical and mental well being in balance. And many of us choose to believe visiting a Western doctor is enough for preventing diseases. And some of us don’t want to acknowledge we need help. But what about having someone in the middle? Someone that has a solid understanding of your body’s anatomical and energetic properties, and helps you monitor and keep your body in check. It also helps to have a second opinion rather than relying on ourselves to check for “red flags”. That person is your masseuse. Why?
Many of our tax dollars are spent every year on testing and diagnostic devices, such as CT scans and MRIs. Many of them come with a hefty cost in time and money for maintaining, preparing and repairing them. There is also the cost of the technician to run them and the doctor to read them. Many of these devices also have long waiting periods. Here is an example: John had a lump under his knee and went to see his doctor about it. She was unsure of what it was and decided to do some tests; unfortunately for John, he has to wait several weeks for the results to get back. He eventually got fed up of not knowing and went to see a masseuse. The masseuse diagnosed it as a cyst, and within a few days, results came back saying it was a cyst under his knee. I spoke with a doctor about this case:
“Before extensive investigations, such as CT scans or MRI are done, massage therapy is a reasonable initial treatment for many aches and strains. Avoiding unnecessary tests could save the health care system millions of dollars a year.” Dr. Marin MD
I am sure you’ve heard of similar cases of time and money being unnecessarily spent. This is not to discredit the doctor’s capabilities and diagnostic devices. It is still important to have your doctor make a final diagnosis and be involved in your health.
A masseuse can help your doctor (and you) by pointing in the right direction of where the problem lies.
The masseuse can also address the problems in a more holistic way, without prescription pills. They act as a support and guide for you to make sure you change habits naturally in the body and not adversely. Within the initial session, the masseuse already has a good idea of your anatomical and energetic imbalances, and within a few sessions s/he already has a full “geographical” sketch of your health. This allows them to give you good quality information about how, why, and what to do about your body by blending Eastern and Western principles. The masseuse uses massage to help rewire and help circulate the body’s energies, which is safer than taking pills that carry side effects- or even surgery. And the best part, you can see what s/he is doing and how it’s working.
Regular visits to your masseuse can help detect possible complications such as lumps, bumps, bruises, and tears. They use their hands as a simple diagnostic tool. Overtime, s/he knows your body’s “moods” and cyclical changes, which in turn act as a powerful preventative tool for early detection of possible cancer and tumors. Having a strong assessment of your body, they can tell if something isn’t right and refer you to your doctor. This gives them the opportunity to build rapport with your doctor and work together to monitor your health and well being.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how you want to take care of yourself and having a team behind you is better than doing it by yourself.
Image courtesy of Num Skyman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net