WHY do I HURT? – Emotional Stress and Pain

Obviously, in my line of work I get asked that question a lot. While it’s true that it’s a frequently asked question, the answers often vary. Sure we see structural dysfunctions that cause pain–an elevated left hip causing right ankle pain, for example. But what if we dig a little deeper? What if your pain is directly tied to an emotional trauma or stress?

In my experience as Clinic Director of Egoscue Nashville, I’ve seen it too many times. Let me tell you a story to help explain what I’m talking about.

Judy (not her real name) came in to my clinic with debilitating shoulder pain. The pain had reared its head several months prior to her coming in, and she was–along with all the other experts she had seen–stumped. The shoulder capsule itself checked out fine. The rotator cuff wasn’t torn, there was no impingement in the joint, and for all intents and purposes, she had a “healthy” shoulder…except for the excruciating pain.

She was a tennis player, and had been for some 25 years (she was in her 60s) and wondered if all that time on the court had “finally taken its toll” on her shoulder joint. I didn’t think it was tennis’ fault (after all, she was swinging the racquet with both shoulders and had been for 25 years. Why would the pain just show up now, and only on one side?), so I set out on a journey to discover exactly why she hurt.

We sat in my office for about 30 minutes, asking each other questions. She asked about Egoscue and how we would help her pain. I asked about her condition and why she believed she hurt. The conversation of course went to tennis, and that is when she blamed her activity.

“But, you’ve been playing for 25 years. Why do you think the pain just started six months ago?” I asked.

“Well,” said Judy, “I don’t know. I guess I haven’t thought about it like that. I just know that it has been hurting since January, and I assumed it was due to too much time on the court. But, I’ve been able to play tennis pain free for 25 years up until that point.”

“So, if it’s not tennis’ fault. Why do you believe you hurt?”

“Well…I guess I’m not sure.” Judy said.

“What happened in January?” I asked.

“My shoulder started hurting!” Judy said with frustration in her voice.

“No, Judy. What happened? What changed in January. Away from the court. What happened?”

And that’s when it hit her. Judy’s face when expressionless and turned a bit pale in color as if she had just seen a ghost. She explained to me that she had just been through a very complicated divorce. It was an emergency situation and she told me she was literally married one day and divorced the next, and she had spent the last few months curled up on the couch in an attempt to cope with what was going on in her “new” life. Bingo.

That’s why she hurt. It wasn’t tennis’ fault. Emotionally, she was dealing with something that was having a profound impact on her physically. Although it’s not my job to help Judy through the emotional side of things, it IS my job to help her discover the true cause of her pain. I fully believe that if we hadn’t uncovered the emotional tie-in to the physical pain, there wouldn’t have been enough e-cises in the world to fully eliminate her shoulder pain. I believe she would have gotten better, sure, but 100% pain free? I doubt it. Not if the emotional side of things hadn’t been uncovered.

We say it every day, but it bears repeating: The body is a unit. And I’m not simply referring to the muscles and bones. Everything is connected, and the sooner all the pieces of the puzzle are put together, the sooner you reach perfect health.

After reading this article…why do you hurt? I would encourage you to dig a bit deeper to see if there is an emotional link to your physical pain! If you have any questions or would like to learn more, schedule your free consult today: call 615.771.8556 or email nashville@egoscue.com.