I heard once a long time ago, “Pain is your body’s way of propelling you away from death.”  Meaning that pain is there to tell you to pay attention to your body so you can fix the problem and regain your health.  You don’t want to just numb the pain away and don’t fix it.

The other day I squeezed in a 25-minute chair massage.  Since my 2-month old was born, I not only need the body work more than usual, but I am getting far less treatment than usual due to an extreme lack of time!  I have not had a single “real” massage in ages, it seems.  Therefore, I feel a little like a mess.  Not, of course, compared to other people, but I don’t like to compare myself to other people.  For me, I like to have zero pain or tension in my body and I know what it takes to achieve that.  

I went to “Relax Day Spa” in the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center.  The nice man had me sit in the massage chair and proceeded to beat the living crap out of my shoulders.  It hurt!  Normally I enjoy deep tissue work, but I had so much tension that it was incredibly painful.  I didn’t even realize that I had that much tension in my body!  

When he leaned his full weight into his elbow to massage around my scapula, I lost my breath for a minute.  I literally had to move in my seat and adjust my position to endure any more.  I contemplated, “should I say something?  Should I tell him to back off a little?”  The voice in my head said, “No.  You need this.  Don’t be a wimp.”  I resorted to my yoga breathing training.  Deep inhales, deeper exhales.  Find the area that feels tight and let go.  

Then I remembered what I learned in natural childbirth.  Find the area you’re holding tension and let it go.  When you’re feeling intense pain, your mind gets tight.  You’re thinking “ow, ow, ow!”  Instead, think about how you can let go of a muscle that you’re holding tight.  Also – it’s not necessarily the area that hurts.  When he rubbed the upper back, I relaxed my arms.  When he massaged my neck, I relaxed my abdomen.  Sink into it.  Breathe into it.  Focus on relaxing, not on the pain.  

As I did this during my excrutiating massage experience,  I found myself letting go of tension in my arm.  My arm actually fell off the arm rest.  The therapist seemed a little alarmed at that, but I didn’t let his alarm affect my relaxation experience.  I let go of tension in my chest with a loud, audible exhale.  The therapist paused for a minute before he continued.  Pain is where your blood is stagnating and, therefore, where dis-eases can develop.  When you find the tight area (again, which is NOT necessarily where the pain is), and relax it, your blood flows easier and the pain relieves.  

Acupuncture, the insertion of tiny needles to relieve body pain, should not hurt.  The points that produce strong “sensations” (I wouldn’t call it “pain”) are linked to where our bodies are holding tension.  The needles can teach us how to let go of the tight areas by giving into the sensation of the needles.  

As one area loosens up, you may feel more tension or pain in a different area.  How can you loosen that area?  What body positions, sounds, or sensations can change the new pain area?   As the pain is chased away, you can feel different areas contracting and releasing.  This is how blood circulates in your vessels.  Muscle contraction and release pumps your blood and chases away the pain.  

Once all the areas have released, you feel great.  You feel whole and complete.  Health = Happiness.

horse stanceExercise is another way of finding tense areas that can relieve your body of pain.  In exercise, there is a difference between true pain (sharp, intense pain) and discomfort.  Sharp pain = stop what you’re doing or back off on the intensity.  Discomfort you can work through.  You can work through the discomfort sensation and find areas that you can relax.  The best experience I have had of this sensation is known as “horse stance” in traditional Kung Fu training.  (see the picture on the right here)  You sit in this stance and breathe.  Try it!  For my 4th degree black belt test I had to hold it for 15 minutes.  

Find what you can relax in order to endure the movement and strengthen your body.  If your legs are shaking and you are about to give up, try releasing tension somewhere else in your body.  Are you holding tension in your face, your eyes, your shoulders, or your abdomen?  How about in your glutes?  Let it go.   

As your blood moves more, you feel happier, once again.  

So, you could say, it takes pain to get rid of pain.  Or, it takes “sensation” to get rid of pain.  I also like the saying, “Pain is the feeling of weakness leaving your body.”  I think weight lifters say that.  Or is it Crossfitters?  

How about you?  Where do you hold your tension?  What can you let go of?  Does that help any chronic pain you may be experiencing?