Resistance Can Increase the Pain?


I’ve been fighting acute pain for weeks now. I’m not speaking of total body pain like that of fibromyalgia. Rather, this is an additional illness I have dealt with for nearly 40 years called myofascial pain syndrome. Usually, it comes and goes, but lately, it has come to stay.

Rather than take prescribed narcotic medication, I’ve sought alternative treatments. Acupuncture was no help. Chiropractic treatment helped initially, but it has ceased effectivity. My last resort was physical therapy. And it was a good one. The stretches my physical therapist prescribed have significantly relieved the frequency of muscle spasms I had going on. Unfortunately, those same exercises aggravated a nerve in my neck, causing a secondary condition called occipital neuralgia, which is a condition as painful as the myofascial pain syndrome I originally treated.

To say I’m discouraged is an understatement. Until I see my physical therapist later this week, I’m afraid to continue the prescribed stretches that seem to be worsening the pain. I’m also concerned that skipping the stretches may prolong the pain. It’s a lousy situation at best.

One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that resistance increases pain. As highlighted in Psychology Today, your pain will hurt less if you accept it. Of course, this article was written in the context of emotional suffering rather than physical suffering. However, my experience tells me that this concept is true for both forms of pain.

When you fight physical pain, your body tenses up. As you await each jolt, you’re poised, anticipating. Your muscles tighten. That muscle tension alone can cause pain. When added to the pain of a different cause, it creates a second dimension. Now you’re fighting two pain sources instead of one.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advising you to ignore your pain. Just the opposite. First, do everything you know how to do. Ask for outside assistance if you need to. If conventional medicine doesn’t work for you, try alternative therapies. Try diversionary tactics such as writing (as I’m doing right now), meditation, soothing music, controlled breathing, visualization.

Try focusing on your pain’s characteristics. Is it burning, throbbing, electrical? Recognizing each individual sensation is useful in realizing the impermanent nature of each of them. This makes the pain less frightening. Just don’t allow yourself to dwell on it. Rather, follow up quickly by focusing on an area of the body that doesn’t hurt right now. This helps you realize that your body is more than just pain. There are pain-free places as well. To help with this, try doing slight repetitive movements with a pain-free body part.

It’s only after exhausting all possible treatments that the issue of resistance emerges. At some point, it becomes therapeutic just to sit back and realize that you’ve done all that can be done, and your doctors have done all that they can do. That’s the time to tell yourself, “This is how it is right now. It’s time to allow my body to heal.”

The amazing thing is that bodies do heal themselves if given the ideal environment. That environment consists of an attitude of calm acceptance and emotional vitality. It’s important to convince yourself that the discomfort you’re feeling is only temporary. That tomorrow will be a brighter day. That this is the time to relax into the pain. After all, there’s nothing else to be done. You may even ease some of the muscle tension that’s causing your pain to be worse than it needs to be.