We all experience pain at some time. But there’s a huge difference between the discomfort of a stubbed toe and being in long-term pain. Pain for some can be so excruciating that it affects their whole life, often necessitating a cocktail of painkillers. If you suffer from this, it may be that there is more at the root of it than just a physical condition. Read on to find out about the links between physical pains and emotional trauma.



How can there be a link between physical pain and trauma?


Pain is a message from our brain to tell us something is wrong. If we stub our toe, our brain sends a signal to alert us to take care of it until it has healed. If we break a bone, it keeps the symptoms present until we have had the break set, at which point it normally goes away. The message is there to give us information to do something, such as get medical attention or take special care. However, sometimes it can be linked to a traumatic experience; either the accident that caused the pain is traumatic, or it happened at the same time as something traumatic. Sometimes the message gets ‘locked’ and doesn’t go away when the issue causing the discomfort is healed. 

So what is trauma and what kind of incident could be linked to physical pain?



What is trauma? 


Trauma can be defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. It’s impossible to compile a list of traumas, as what’s traumatic for some is not the same for others. However, what these experiences do share in common is that a strong emotional reaction will be present at the time. 

Trauma memories are stored in the emotional brain so that it can prevent us from experiencing a similar situation again. If the brain sees a similar threat then it will try to stop that situation from happening again in order to keep us safe. So how does this link to pain? 

Say you have a car accident that is understandably perceived by the brain as traumatic. You sustain an injury which is treated and which heals over a period of time. It sometimes happens that when there is no more treatment to be done that you are still in pain. But the physical injury has been mended, so why does it still hurt? Sometimes the brain doesn’t turn off the message, because there is a trauma memory attached to it. If the brain perceives that you are still regularly in danger every time you get in the car, which it may well do if it has stored away the pattern of the accident as a trauma, then it might keep the pain message as a warning to you.  



How one man’s back pain was connected to his childhood 


The car accident example is an obvious connection. However, sometimes there is a connection between the physical condition and a trauma which the sufferer is completely unaware of. I treated a client a couple of years ago, who had had longterm back pain. Mike was a builder and had started working at a young age with his uncle who physically and verbally abused him. Over the years, Mike had treatment for his back, which would sometimes work for a while, but would always come back. There was nothing medically that would explain the symptoms, except that he did quite heavy work and he was repeatedly told that this was the cause.

During our session, we made a link between the pain and the abuse that he suffered when he was young. His brain was associating building work with the abuse, and was keeping him in pain. This was an attempt by the brain to keep him safe, so that he would stop doing the work. He carried on building and the pain kept returning. I worked with him on the abuse so that it was no longer a trauma memory. Once this was done, there was no need to keep the pain message since there was no connection between the building work and the abuse. The pain went there and then and has not come back. 



Getting help


It is possible to get help with the trauma and the pain. We frequently treat people for this, by helping them to reprocess trauma connected to it. We can then separate out the physical message from the trauma memory and get the brain to turn it off. Sound too simple to be true? Well consider this: all pain starts in the brain. It is responsible for sending the messages and deciding why and when to do that. It’s therefore completely possible to ask the brain to reconsider the evidence for the messages it sends. If you have pain that’s been diagnosed and there is no medical intervention that can be done other than manage it then this technique could work for you. 

I hope you have found this information helpful. As always, please share if you know someone who would benefit from reading it. For more information and useful downloads, head over to our website.

With very best wishes


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