The most common new patient who walks (or crawls) into my Chiropractic practice has not had an obvious severe injury explaining their sudden acute pain. He or she will usually tell me that they were feeling just fine and then woke up one morning or simply bent over to pick up the toothbrush or sneezed. WHAM! Pain! And lots of it. Why now? Why does the man who jogged every morning and only ate the egg yolks suddenly have a massive heart attack? What is the difference between seemingly healthy people who fall prey to disease and those who live long vital lives?
Of course, there are many answers to those questions. In my clinical experience, the actual cause of the health crisis has usually been present for a very long time; lying dormant until other factors force it to the surface. Factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, environment and stress level no doubt play very important roles. I have become aware of another piece to the puzzle which I believe has a far greater effect. We have all heard the term mind-body connection. It has become a very common buzz word in holistic health circles. I think that most of us would agree that our emotions play an important role in our health, but WHY and HOW?
Since the beginning of time, our bodies primary design and purpose has been to survive. Countless processes in the human body protect us from harm, fight disease, and ensure the continuation of our species. The truth is that at this very moment each one of us is carrying around deadly viruses and cancer cells. We are unaware of them because ou immune systems are able to successfully fight and destroy the threatening invaders. We also continually cause stress and strain to our spine and joints. Our bodies respond by forming scar tissue and, in extreme cases, new bone growth to reinforce weak areas. Unfortunately this compromises our nervous tissue and becomes more permanent and destructive with time. We continue our lives as usual until we can no longer deal with the insult. What determines when our bodies have had enough?
Our emotions, positive or negative, are comprised of very real particles of energy which create very real reactions in our bodies. Candace Pert, a PhD Biochemist, discovered quantifiable proof of this mind-body connection. In her book, The Molecules of Emotion, she describes how our various emotions such as anger, love, grief, and joy release chemicals in our brain and in nerve roots located just outside of our spinal column. These chemicals can be feel good neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins which elate us when we fall in love or they can be harmful inflammatory chemicals such as cortisol as a result of stress. When we are free of emotional distress, our biochemical environment is one that promotes good health and ease in our body. When we experience emotional trauma, our biochemical environment is programmed for destruction.
Because our body’s primary purpose is self-protection, if we are unable to deal with a trauma (emotional or physical) when it happens, the experience will be filed deeply away inside our tissues. It does not go away, it is just left to simmer (and create harmful biochemicals) until it can be released and healed. A person who has tragically experienced sexual abuse in his/her youth will usually bury the experience deep inside as a self-protection reaction and stoically go on with his life. Sometime later in life, this person will likely develop unexpected health problems. In my practice, I often see this scenario develop into sudden severe low back or pelvic pain which often does not respond quickly to the usual care plan. Severe grief, such as the loss of a child or spouse, often materializes in the body as mid-back (lung field) pain. Verbal abuse and feelings of worthlessness can appear as neck and upper back hyper-flexion (head down, slouching forward). There are many more scenarios. The inflammation of the nerve root in the affected areas can cause0 much more severe systemic problems along the pathway of the particular effected nerve.
Addressing our emotional well-being can be the very best step towards healing our physical bodies. Make time for activities which calm you, such as meditation, yoga and exercise. Seek a competent counselor. I frequently recommend addressing our subconscious memories and thought patterns through the help of a qualified hypnotherapist. Bodywork such as massage, acupuncture and Chiropractic can also heal our emotional and physical sources of pain.