Psychogenic pain – 7 common ailments that could have an emotional not physical cause
Not every pain or physical dysfunction we experience can be traced to a physical cause such as injury trauma or disease.
Medical professionals have recognised for decades that in some patients the pain has a psychogenic root. Psychogenic pain is defined as a pain disorder associated with psychological factors. Clients will often come to complementary therapists for support with their physical issue after feeling dismissed by the medical profession once tests such as MRI scans have failed to uncover an obvious physical cause for their symptoms.
They have often been coping with pain in limbs or joints for a number of months or even years. Similarly, they may be suffering undiagnosed digestive issues, breathing difficulties or other dysfunction where medical tests for disease or allergy have failed to find a cause or cure. This failure is in itself stressful for the client and can exacerbate symptoms. Often their sympathetic nervous system or “flight or fight mode” has been triggered. This means cortisol is released, increasing blood pressure and blood sugar further reducing self-healing. Complementary therapies such as massage, aromatherapy and Reiki are vital at this stage to stimulate the vagus nerve allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to take over reducing blood pressure, slowing breathing and releasing of feel-good oxytocin.
Once a course of complementary therapy has begun to bring the extreme symptoms under control, psychotherapeutic counselling techniques in a talking therapy can be used to encourage clients to explore whether there are emotional issues which might be triggering their symptoms. As psychogenic pain specialist Susan Babbel MFT PhD writes “Often, physical pain functions to warn a person that there is still emotional work to be done”.
Work in this area uses the ancient energy diagnostic tools of the Chakra system to signpost areas that clients may wish to explore. Where no physical medical cause has been established for symptoms we ask clients to examine their emotions and lifestyle choices to see if blocks are revealed. The “body-mind” list we have developed is as follows:
Base - any symptoms affecting the basic building blocks of our body such as bones, joints, muscle, skin and blood could point to issues with the basic building blocks of our lives such as our relationships with our life partner, close family or important community support network.
Production - any symptom affecting the male or female reproductive organs could point to issues in our love or sexual relationships (offspring production) or worries about financial concerns (money production).
Feeding - any symptom relating to the digestive tract could point to issues in feeding our sense of self, whether that be self-image, security in work or other areas of expertise that show us in a good light to others.
Power house - any symptoms of the heart and lungs which are the engine room of our body point to issues with us accessing the nurturing support required to “service and maintain” our engine room. Are we failing to ask for or being refused our needs?
Communication - any symptoms in the neck, mouth, jaw and ear area may point to issues with communication. It is worth examining if we are not speaking about an issue, we are not feeling heard when we do speak or we are failing to hear an important message being repeated by others.
Headspace - symptoms such as headaches or eye and sight problems may point to issues with blocked thinking and unhelpful thought patterns compromising mental health. Recognising attitudes such as negativity, hanging onto the past or overblown fears for the future can lead to relief.
Severe disabling illnesses - totally debilitating symptoms which severely restrict movement or manifest as disabling levels of exhaustion that “stop us in our tracks” when no medical cause has been isolated could point to blocks in our inner life - spirituality and purpose. Focusing on our values, spiritual connectedness and life purpose can see these symptoms dissipate.
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