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Note: This is just a sampling of quotes from available studies; the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, this information is not yet in our collective societal consciousness (including that of many practicing healthcare workers).
Click here for books and other resources that address trauma and healing.
Physical (e.g., injuries, surgery), emotional, or psychological traumas can affect the physical body.
A definition of trauma I particularly like comes from SAMHSA-HRSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-Health Resources and Services Administration) Center for Integrated Health Solutions:
Studies indicate an association between chronic pain syndromes and a wide variety of surgical operations and physical trauma. Furthermore, past traumatic life events and depressed mood have been found to be predictive of chronic pain; and traumatic childhood events have been found to be significantly related to chronic pain. [See sidebar of quotes, and click here for a list of resources addressing trauma and chronic.]
While not all chronic myofascial-pain sufferers have experienced past emotional trauma, from my personal experience and research I know that trauma can be a contributor to chronic pain. (It is also likely a contributor to other physical health problems, as well as to mental health issues.) Plus, people exposed to trauma can be affected to different degrees.
However, I have found that the general public's concept of the effects of emotional trauma focuses mainly on common post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, increased heart rate, sweating, and startle responses. Chronic pain or other chronic illnesses are usually not associated with the layperson's understanding of the effects of trauma.
Two excellent books on this topic are Peter Levine's Waking the Tiger: Healing from Trauma and Robert Scaer's The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease, which are listed in the Trauma and pain resources page, along with a few other good books.
Numerous studies in the scientific literature identify an association between chronic pain and both physical and emotional trauma. Unfortunately, the medical professionals who initially treated my chronic pain either weren't aware of this or didn't mention it to me. As it turned out, past traumas were contributing to my chronic pain. I know this because it wasn't until I acknowledged and addressed those traumas—after years of trying traditional treatments—that my pain fell significantly and consistently to lower levels.
Additionally, whether or not an event traumatizes a person, often unresolved emotions surrounding the event can often affect chronic pain and illness. As for chronic pain sufferers who do have traumatic pasts, they are unlikely to be evaluated by their healthcare professionals to determine if the trauma is causing or perpetuating their pain. The result is unresolved trauma and ongoing pain. Addressing the true source of pain is what can finally begin to alleviate the pain.
What I learned firsthand is that chronic pain can be inextricably tied to trauma. But what I want to emphasize here is that this isn't my experience only. Scientific studies back this understanding. [See Trauma and pain resources.]
My experience taught me that my body held suppressed traumas. Our bodies (through our subconscious) often remember more than we allow our conscious minds to remember. In order for those past traumas to lose their hold on us, we must release them. And that is easier said than done for many of us.
There is an entire scientific/medical field for treating trauma. But I've learned that healing begins by first acknowledging the trauma and then somehow working through it. I'll leave how to work through trauma up to the many other resources on treating trauma. [See Trauma and pain resources.] However, myofascial release bodywork is what dramatically helped me. [See JFB-MFR treatment.]
If you take nothing else from these pages, what’s most important to realize is that both physical and emotional traumas can affect our physical well-being, and we have a better chance of healing if we address them.
Healing is not easy, and in some cases it can take a long time. But continuing to release past issues helps us to begin to leave the physical and emotional pain behind.