Page 1 of 4Pain presents itself in myriad forms: the immediate, throbbing sensation of stubbing a toe; the nagging, stinging burn of a sore throat; the take-your-breath-away feeling when you move your "bad back" in the wrong way; the heaviness of lifting your arms overhead after a challenging workout; and the relentless, deep-in-your-bones pain that accompanies conditions like osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia. In any of these cases, pain can be sharp or dull, chronic or acute, burning or throbbing, mild or severe.
And as human beings, we are designed to avoid all kinds of pain. The intensity of pain often renders us unable to rationalize what we're feeling or focus on anything else. When it's there, it's hard to ignore. We want to stop it immediately.
But have you ever thought about listening to pain—instead of trying to avoid it? On a physiological level, pain exists for a reason: to alert us that something is amiss with the body. Pain is supposed to feel bad, and it's supposed to hurt because it is a siren, a signal to stop what we're doing, avoid something or make a change.
In many cases, the cause of pain is beyond our control: a herniated disc from whiplash; an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis; a torn ACL from a pick-up basketball game. But in other cases, as with many types of back pain and repetitive motion injuries, if we trace our pain back to its source, we discover ways we could have alleviated our discomfort—and perhaps even quell it now or prevent long-term injury or permanent damage.
What Pain Taught Me
For the last couple of years, I (like millions of Americans) have been plagued by lower back pain. At times, the pain was so bad that I worked from home, in bed, propped up against a heating pad. I went to a chiropractor, got massages and used a foam roller daily. Finally, my massage therapist, who is also a yoga teacher, pinpointed the problem: My psoas, a deep core muscle that runs from the lower back and sacral region around to the front of the hip and femur bone, was really tight. She released the muscle with a deep massage of my hip, then showed me some stretches to loosen it at home and suggested I stand more during the day (at a standing workstation). My back pain has greatly diminished, thanks to daily yoga and stretches. If I slack off for even 48 hours, my psoas tightens, and I feel that familiar pain in my lumbar and sacral region