Women and Chronic Pain: Healing the Emotional Body
May 01, 2013 10:05AM
By Hilary Bilkis, MS, LMT, CST
Over the past decade, research has shown that women have a higher tendency to be diagnosed with chronic pain than men have. What does that mean? Are women more prone to pain, or are they more likely to seek help when they have it?
From my personal experience as a manual therapist, women are more proactive than men when it comes to finding solutions to chronic pain. Over the past 12 years, I’ve treated many more women than men. Those women are affected by a number of chronic pain symptoms and also have a greater tendency to suffer sudden-onset pain ranging from mild aches to severe pain from fibromyalgia. There is also a correlation between stress and anxiety causing pain.
Women are givers and doers. We tend to take care of and pay attention to everyone else’s needs before we take care of our own. As we neglect ourselves, our emotions often get the best of us. We may feel angry, tired, resentful, unappreciated, or taken for granted. Instead of voicing our discontent, many women will bury these unpleasant feelings in their bodies. “EMOTION is energy in MOTION.” When these emotional responses, triggered by traumatic, hurtful, painful situations or events, don’t move through the body, they become“stuck” in the body, in the connective tissue system, where science has shown us that memories and emotion are stored. This fluid-based system is the scaffolding that supports us and gives us our shape. It’s also the most abundant substance in the body. And as part of the sensory nervous system, it’s where chronic pain begins.
As a manual therapist, I’ve felt a range of emotions and memories in my client’s tissue during a bodywork session. Negative emotions vibrate at a lower frequency, so the tissue feels stuck and restricted. And negative emotions tend to stick to inherently weaker areas, such as those where you were injured, had surgery, have chronic pain or weakness. The emotions may also choose to stay in specific organs or energy meridians.
The manual therapy techniques that I use on my clients safely release stuck emotions that are often the cause of their pain. As we work together with focused attention to the area of restriction, the body allows the memories to come into conscious awareness and then peels these emotions and energy blockages away, in layers. This process is known assomato-emotional release (SER). It’s important to note thatthe peeling away of these layers is never more than a client can mentally or physically handle at that moment in time. Clients may feel heat, buzzing and moving sensations as their body frees the stored emotions.
After a session, many clients feel physically lighter, breathe more easily, move with greater ease and feel as if a burden has been lifted. Other clients experience a clarity of thought and feel more rooted. And clients who’ve suffered from chronic pain for years are freed from it. Our bodywork sessions, which helped to heal their emotional body, gave them the freedom to enjoy their lives again.
When the body manifests pain, it is for a reason. It is our body’s way of letting us know that something is not right. It is our early warning system. If we don’t listen to the mild nudges of pain or discomfort, our body will send louder and louder messages. Honor your body. Listen to the pain — don’t ignore it. Seek out medical attention to rule out serious injury or disease. Then find a manual therapist as an adjunct to any medical treatment you may require — or as an alternative treatment if the doctors say that all tests are “normal.”
Hilary D. Bilkis, MS, LMT, CST is the owner of Awakening Wellness, LLC, a bodywork practice in Morristown, NJ. Visit Awakening4Wellness.com to learn more.