Partners in pain relief: Why we need to work hand-in-hand with clients

When many people in pain head to a healthcare professional for help, they may expect the pro, all on his or her own, to do the work in making that pain go away.

I have a different philosophy. I believe that the client has to participate in his or her healing, and we have to work together to promote healing and reduce pain.

Negative emotions cause inflammation and further aggravate pain, while positive emotions link to growth and regeneration of new cells. Research shows that stress and emotions play important roles in contributing to pain and need to be addressed just as much as physical symptoms.

That’s why I call my approach “partners in pain relief.

I explain to clients with  pain that we need to work as a team: I will use my physiotherapy expertise while, at the same time, they must work on  calming down their nervous system,  using some of the many techniques and tools I teach, from the HeartMath Institute’s stop, shift and decide strategy  to tapping meditations and more. Working together, we can eliminate the pain completely or dial it down so they have more pain-free or low-pain days.

I have written here before about a client who was in a car accident and suffered multiple serious injuries. Naturally, she felt many negative emotions following the accident.

To work on her physical symptoms, we have been using light therapy (including a home device), myofascial release and specialized exercises — but we have also been addressing her feelings, and how to change those negative emotions into positive ones.

For instance, just by focusing on her gratitude that her son, who was also in the car, suffered no injuries in the accident, she has been able to lift her spirits.  Recognizing the great support she felt from staff and other patients while she was in hospital and in-patient rehab has also helped her to feel more positive.

However, as we know,  recovery is never a straight line. She continues to deal with many challenges since being discharged from rehab, and often needs assistance to shift from energy-depleting emotions to energy-renewing ones.

For instance, she finds that even putting a couple of minutes first thing in the morning into doing appreciation meditationsusing the HeartMath Institute’s biofeedback technology, helps her to be better able to deal with the frustrations that may come up during the day.   After an upsetting situation, she uses a HeartMath technique to shift and reset her emotions. 

She also feels her spirits rise when she receives short daily phone text messages that I send out to many clients offering suggestions on what to positively focus on for each day.

For instance, in a recent “Fave Sounds Friday” text, I reminded her of the lyrics from  The Sound of Music song  A Few of My Favourite Things: “When I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”

I  suggested not only thinking of some favourite things,  but also focusing on the positive emotions conjured up when she remembers them.

One way to help do this is to take extra care to be really mindful when you are experiencing a positive emotion.

For example, if you’re in a beautiful place in nature, attending a special event, such as a child’s graduation or wedding,  or spending time with someone you really love, whether a grandchild or  a pet, you should really savour the moment with all five of your senses, and let the positive emotions really sink in and get absorbed.

It then becomes easier to conjure up the positive emotions in the future when you need them to change your focus away from the negative.

That’s why the concept of focusing on what we’re grateful for and creating gratitude lists is growing in popularity.

Gratitude, like compassion and care, is an energy-renewing emotion.

Most of my clients feel empowered knowing that they play a major role and have tools for self-management in helping their bodies heal and decrease pain.


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