Specializations

Hypnosis and Discomfort – 3 of 4

Stress and Chronic Pain

When confronted with threats, the most primitive areas of our mind seek to stimulate action in our muscles. This ancient programming is beyond conscious control. Just as with a weaker wolf threatened by a dominant wolf, that program is still in play in socially threatening situations. Tension builds in the muscles, building toxins while restricting blood flow.

Eventually the muscles and joints begin to suffocate, screaming in pain. That pain lightens and interrupts sleep, minimizing the deep restorative rest required for healing. This vicious cycle causes the condition to grow worse.

It is only recently that medical science has come to recognize this connection between stress and chronic pain. Once established, discipline is required to exercise weakened tissues, loosening them so that normal blood flow resumes. In extreme cases, we turn to doctors for pain medication, while chiropractors and massage therapists can manipulate joints and muscles to increase flexibility. Even so, if tissue degeneration has spread to the joints, exercise may seem too painful to resume.

In desperation, many patients turn to surgery to restore ease of motion. The most common target of surgery is the back. A federal study of outcomes, however, shows that it in almost every case back surgery fails to provide long-term relief.

Ref: Ozanich “The Great Pain Deception”

Part 2 | Part 4

Specializations

Hypnosis and Discomfort – 2 of 4

The Mind and Stress

Given the benefits of releasing muscle tension to promote healing and performance, we might wonder what happens if the tension isn’t released. When held at maximum strain, eventually muscles cramp, and if the cramp isn’t released, muscles harden to bone.

The subconscious knows better than to hold a muscle under such strain. It takes conscious will to sustain a cramp.

That extends to other kinds of strain. When faced with a threat, our subconscious promotes either the fight reaction (“I can eat that!”) or the flight reaction (“It can eat me!”). In nature, the outcome is usually resolved in a matter of seconds.

In society, however, those decisions are complicated by laws and social restrictions forced upon our conscious thinking. Confronted with a threat, we rarely can fight, so we transfer our reaction to another context (the gym) or stew in anxiety. At work, we cannot flee, so we either repress emotional expression or withdraw into depression. These are all decisions enforced by a conscious mind that understands the consequences of allowing our natural responses to run their course: social isolation or jail.

In neither case is the subconscious allowed to discharge the stress. In fact, it anticipates additional confrontation in the future, replaying the situation over and over in dreams seeking a resolution. That interferes with its ability to focus on other problems. As those problems degrade into conflict, stress spreads through our life like a cancer.

Part 1 | Part 3