Back and neck pain are two ailments that cost society and the individual tremendously each year. Financially for sure, but also mentally, socially and psychologically. Pain is a physical phenomenon, but is this the whole truth? Can we blame all kinds of pain on physical components?
In the last article I touched on the phenomenon of muscular imbalance and how such a misalignment can cause pain. I also tried to illustrate how important it is how we feel mentally, how well our life is functioning on all levels. The pain phenomenon is much greater than we can ever understand.
Pain is a warning signal that something is wrong but it doesn’t tell us what is wrong, only that something is not functioning as it should. There are actually four categories of pain – Neurogenic, Nociceptive, Idiopathic and Mental.
This is only one form of categorising pain, we can classify or catalogue pain as well, and it looks something like this: Pain is either physical or mental/psychological. An example of physical pain is a sprained ankle. A psychological/mental pain can occur for example due to depression or if you are discontented with your job or your relationship, or if you’re afraid of loneliness.
What’s the significance you might ask yourself? Well, the treatment differs drastically depending whether the pain is of physical or psychological/mental origin.
Heat or cold
How are we to differentiate whether the pain is of a physical or mental origin? Should we apply heat or cold? If you sprain your ankle, do you apply ice or a warm wheat pillow to ease the pain? Ice, of course.
If you have low back pain, do you put ice or a warm wheat pillow on the area to relieve the pain? Usually the answer is…… a warm wheat pillow. This is how easy it is to differentiate whether the origin, or root cause, of your pain is of physical or psychological descent. Notice the little word root cause. It is very likely that it’s your low back muscles that signal the pain. That low back pain is only the symptom. The underlying cause, or root cause, can still be of psychological or mental origin. We have a root cause and a triggering situation (raking leaves, shoveling snow), and there is a huge difference in the two events.
Symptoms, trigger, cause and root cause.
It is important to differentiate the various concepts here:
Symptoms: Pain for example. Let’s take headache as an example. Headache is a symptom. The pain is located in the head, straight across the forehead. Do you for a second think there is something wrong with your frontal bone just because you feel the pain there? No, of course not. The cause may be that you’re dehydrated, had too much alcohol, the stress at work is killing you; your neck is sooo tense. This is what we can categorize as a Cause.
There’s a huge difference between symptom and cause, two completely separate events, unless you’ve been hit in the shin by a Volvo bumper. Symptoms often occur very late in the process.
Root Cause: If you spontaneously feel that a warm wheat pillow or a hot bath would relieve your pain, the pain is most likely of mental or psychological origin. It can be anxiety, fear of not being good enough or not worthy of love, maybe you find it hard to say no, have performance anxiety or any of the numerous similar feelings that haunts thousands of people every day. If you walk around everyday life in fear or anxious about something, you will develop a poor posture (ie. put your tail between your legs) and walk around like this. Eventually this posture will cause pain or discomfort in your body. It all has to do with how we interpret everyday situations and life itself. How we interpret any given situation depends on which programs we choose to run. Your interpretation of everyday events is the root cause. Think again on how putting your tail between your legs every day, will affect your posture and muscular balance.
Triggering factor: Most people who have any of these above mentioned interpretations/despair or any closely related cousin will eventually feel some physical discomfort, most likely pain. Sometimes the pain sneaks up on you over a long period, often accompanied their closely related cousins, sadness, anxiety and depression, but sometimes it comes all by itself. If the cousins aren’t around, this process is often a fairly long process and usually requires a trigger, such as raking leaves, shovelling snow for the pain to finally make it’s ugly appearance.
Boom, or smack, the pain arises immediately. “My pain came when I raked leaves in my back yard. ”
– “But raking your leaves is only the trigger”, I reply “if your body is functioning on an optimal level, you wouldn’t get a sore back” There is a difference between root cause and the trigger.
For the argument, let’s say that you’re lying on the couch and munching crisps all day for six months. Then one day you decide to take up running again. You tie your laces, run two kilometers and the day after – PAAAAAIIIIN, Pain throughout the body. Running causes pain, best avoid it.
But the run is only the triggering factor not the root cause. The 6 months of crunching on chips and lying on your couch is the root cause.
The triggering action or deed could very well be physical, but the underlying (root) cause could be mental or psychological. This is important to understand; because the treatment differs drastically depending on whether the pain is mental or physical. You can’t treat these sensations in the same way.
Local or central pain.
We can also categorise pain as local or central. An example of local pain is the aforementioned ankle spraining. Local pain should be treated locally.
But if you have pain in the right and left knees at the same time, or only on the right half of the body, or the pain moves around in your body, then it’s probably not a bunch of different local pains. Now we are talking about something we could label as central pain. Central and psychological pain should be treated centrally, not locally.
Usually it’s our interpretation of reality that must be addressed, i.e. the root cause. Take for example a deep feeling of having to be in control. It’s this “need for control” that is the root cause of your behaviour and actions.
Our behaviour and patterns is something we develop before we turn 6. This is a completely different subject and I will get into this in another article, but briefly, before the age of 6, we have only Delta and Theta brain waves. These brain waves operate on the subconscious part of the brain (the part that makes sure your blood filter through the kidneys, or breaks down your breakfast into energy, and what the body can restore, reuse, stow away for worse times and what needs to eliminated.) The subconscious part of the brain also controls blood pressure and your pH level. This part of the brain is programmed (by others) during our first years here on planet earth, from 0 to 6 years. Everything you’ve learned and noted during these years will be stored in the subconscious part of our brain.
At 6 (ish) our beloved young ones experience a less then joyful time in our lives, the second obstinate age, (the first one is the terrible twos). This somewhat obstinate behaviour coincides with developing the next brain wave, Alpha. This is a time of existential understanding and growth in our young children, the “I” occurs for the first time. Who am I, why should I listen to you, why am I here, I can die, my parents can die. It is now that our conscious part of the brain joins in. This part is where we will be spending most of our time for the rest of our lives.
It is in this part of the brain that you’ll find yourself in most of your life, Apha brain waves (and later Beta). This is your conscious part of your brain, the one who knows where you live, how to count, logical, linear thinking, understand the consequence of jaywalking, etc. But this isn’t the part where your control needs are located, nor your fear of not being good enough, the need to constantly chase confirmation from others, high performance demands on yourself, etc. These fears and anxieties are located in the subconscious part of the brain.
You can’t say:
Ahhh, I’ve grown tired of my claustrophobia (or control need). I’ll just stop it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that; you have to reprogram these patterns / programs in the subconscious part of the brain in order to change the outcome. True, with years of therapy you can learn to accept and control the behavior and thus imagine that you’ve chased away the ghosts. But accepting or controlling your ghosts, doesn’t mean that they are gone forever. In order to actually get a long lasting change, you have to re-write the faulty programs.
If you recognize yourself, you feel that you might have some mental/psychological ghosts that haunt you, then I suggest that you contact one of the following therapists/therapies:
PSYCK-K, EFT, The Journey, NLP, Master of QINOpractic Medicine practitioner or similar therapy. A coach could also do the trick, but only if they can treat you on a subconscious level.
To once again refer back to the first article, make sure the therapist would treat the Why and doesn’t focus so much on What or how they do it. The most important question you need to ask yourself is Why they do what they do, not How they do it.
If you’re not sure on how to move forward, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to help as best I can.
Wow, I guess we’ll have to finish my thoughts in the last article in this series later on. Stay tuned.
Author: Mike Dahlström
Master of QINOpractic Medicine, Doctor of Chiropractic, Founder of QINOpractic Medicine and so on.