ImageThe day started with a rude awaking: I woke after a glorious night’s sleep only to find – uh oh – I could barely move my neck! Even the slightest movement triggered a searing pain through my upper back and left shoulder. Looking back, I am surprised and amazed by my series of responses to the pain and also feel I have such a new appreciation for the stories and experiences shared by my patients who live with pain on a regular basis. My series of reactions to the pain looked something like this:

…Immediately I took anti-inflammatory herbs and anti-inflammatory enzymes to calm any inflammation related to the pain.

…Still struggling to make it through the day, I called upon my co-worker who is an acupuncturist to help remove any energetic blockages that may have been triggering the persistent symptoms.

…I pushed it too hard over the weekend while in denial that I was injured and by Monday was back to square one.

…Fearing my body had forgotten how to heal or respond to remedies that I typically trusted, I reached out to my massage therapist, chiropractor and homeopath.

…After all of the bodywork, my body initially felt worse, but internally I started to shift (likely from the homeopathy!). Instead of feeling like a victim to the pain, I embraced the pain as a part of me to explore and learn more about.

…Once I let go of fear and regained trust in my body, I started to heal.

One of my greatest teachers about pain is a patient I see weekly for massage treatments to address the pain and stiffness resulting in his joints from rheumatoid arthritis. He has learned to calm his shoulder pain that starts to awaken during traffic jams by imagining that all of the drivers surrounding him are different type of wildflowers along the big garden of the highway. This comical and relaxing imagery shifts his experience of pain into one of imagination and humor. Remarkably, his pain starts to dissipate.

Experiencing this pain first-hand taught me to move more slowly, to give each task more presence and attention, and to be mindful of how subtle shifts in perspective can lead to dramatic healing responses in the body. While I will still rely upon my favorite anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, boswellia, and ginger and acute acting homeopathic remedies like Arnica, Rhus tox and Ruta for musculoskeletal complaints, I will also encourage my patients experiencing pain to look within for a more powerful remedy that could be as simple as breathing, slowing down, letting go, or calling upon the healing powers of imagination and humor to move them through the pain.