One of the highlights of my childhood days was the evenings when my father used to read us a story before going to bed. The one fable which I have always been fascinated by is that of the North Wind and the Sun. It was not the violent North Wind, but the persistence of the Sun that made the man remove his coat.
I wonder, could you compare pain to the sun? It is stubborn and persistent, and although it brings much suffering, it is through the understanding of the pain that healing may take place.
Pain takes centre stage in the sufferers’ lives. It will not give up until it gets their full attention and can wreak havoc. Sleepless nights turn into wasted days of not being able to do necessary tasks. Helplessness takes over, fear and worry creep in. How long will this nuisance take? They can’t go to work and provide for the family. Intimacy with spouse slowly becomes something of the past. How will the grandchild they love most dearly understand that they are not allowed to run and embrace them with a mighty hug since the slightest movement translates into unbearable pain? What can they do? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Complementary therapists look at the whole situation, at the entire human being, and not just at the symptoms affecting that particular area. When only the symptoms are treated, the pain might subside for a while, but it will then still manifest as the same pain or transform into something different if the cause is not taken care of.
The human body is a very complex organism. Various factors are contributing to the way we sense pain. Similar causes for pain may be excruciating for some and bearable for others.
A person’s upbringing, experience, and outlook towards life all play an essential role in how pain signals are deciphered. I’m quite sure that someone comes to mind here! That person who makes a whole ordeal of even a slight mishappening. The reason for this could be that if getting hurt, even if in a minor way meant that it was detrimental to the well-being of a person, then the pain threshold will be low. Someone who is extra cautious, vigilant to every variation in the body, then the pain will inevitably be highlighted, and even the slightest pain signal would be interpreted as a significant amount of pain.
Chronic stress is a significant issue in today’s world. This has a tremendous impact on pain. A bit of stress here and there is healthy and helps us get things done, but putting the body under constant stress is like exerting pressure on a box, with continuous pressure it will give in.
Imagine going out of your house, and a dog comes chasing in your direction. Your heart starts pounding, you probably break a sweat and rush back inside, making sure you close the door behind you! This is all the works of the Sympathetic nervous system when adrenaline is released. Within a few seconds, the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands are stimulated and release other hormones which all help prepare the body to react to a dangerous situation. One of these hormones is known as Cortisol. Apart from furnishing the body with enough glucose in the blood, which is a vital energy source for the cells, it slows down less critical body functions.
It is heart wrecking when someone suffers from chronic stress. It feels like being always under threat. Due to adrenal fatigue, the body does not feel replenished in the morning and makes the pain worse later in the day. How hard it must be to wake up every morning feeling like you never slept!
Once the cause of stress is determined, the best way forward is to work together with the sufferer on a plan to bring the body back to homeostasis. This will have a tremendous effect on the pain altogether.
Emotions that people are going through definitely contribute to the interpretation of pain. Just a few weeks ago, I was helping a client with his sciatic pain. He said that it was the worst kind of pain he experienced in his 65years. I could feel his pain from the moment he walked into the consultation room. That sombre look on his face showed that his present world was very different from the one he was accustomed to. He used to play football with a couple of friends once a week, jogged regularly and still did some maintenance work around the house. All this had to stop. The pain had taken over. Halfway through our conversation, it transpired that he was really missing his son, who had just left the country for two years to gain experience abroad. The separation hit him hard and to top it all up, his sciatic pain was keeping him awake at night and not very mobile during the day. This gave him even more time to worry and think about his son. He felt that he was acting selfishly, being aware that his son was gaining a lot from this experience. He just couldn’t come to terms with the idea of the separation. Thinking back to the analogy of the fable, the pain made him stop and reflect. He had to come to terms with what was going on around him. He needed to remove what was weighing on his heart, stop tensing up his body with every thought and move on.
Nature provides us with a myriad of possibilities to nurture us and help us get better. Essential oils work on the spiritual as much as they do on the physical. They hug and take care of those who turn to them. Supporting them and reassuring them that everything is going to be okay.
To help with the physical pain, I prepared some oils to massage his sciatic nerve area. I formulated a balm for this gentleman to take home with him. A balm is soothing, and since its texture is slightly solid, there is a special touch when it is applied even if the person is applying it to himself. It creates a small ritual before going to bed of massaging the feet and chest.
In both these blends, I asked Rose and Melissa to help with emotional distress and anxiety. Melissa caresses the heart and relieves the feeling of isolation. Rose creates a balance between self-love and love towards others. Lavender uplifts and makes everything look manageable. Frankincense is spiritually grounding and deepens the connection with the higher world. Physically Lavender and Frankincense both help with the inflammation. Geranium is a nervine oil, so it was my go-to oil for this situation as a plus it is fantastic at helping with the letting go of emotions.
Being a reflexologist, I also gave him a foot reflexology massage. He fell asleep during the treatment and began to breathe deeper and deeper as it progressed. I could see the muscles on his face slowly giving in, and a smile began to form on his lips. It was the first time he slept so well even if it was for just an hour, but he started feeling the first sense of serenity and acceptance.
He also started going for regular swims to help with his mobility. He started sleeping through the night most of the time. Every week I massaged his sciatic nerve area and gave him a reflexology massage. His pain subsided, and within a couple of weeks, he was practically off his pain killers. This shows us how great results are achieved when treating the person holistically – body, mind, and soul.
Now let me let you in on a little secret. When Gergely asked me to choose a topic and write an article, I thought of writing about pain. However, I began having second thoughts and wasn’t so sure whether I should do so. Faced with this dilemma, I turned to The Tongue of the Tree cards to guide me. Surely enough they never fail as I picked up Myrtle and when I read the poem I realised that I had no choice but to write about pain! These cards have indeed become an indispensable tool!
I would also like to thank the lovely Elizabeth Ashley, who had taught me so much in her course, The Pain Practitioner Programme Training. I began to look at pain from a different perspective, understood more about bodily functions that affect pain, and was provided with more knowledge and tools to help my clients.