We often think of trauma as an emotional or psychological event, a harrowing experience that imprints itself on our minds. However, a growing body of research is suggesting that trauma doesn't just affect our mental state; it can also find a home in our bodies, manifesting as physical pain.
Renowned physician and author Dr. Bessel van der Kolk has said, "The body keeps the score." He suggests that when a trauma is too overwhelming for the mind to process, it can become "stuck" in the body. This powerful notion sheds light on why people often experience physical pain or discomfort as a lingering reminder of past trauma. (1)
When our body encounters a traumatic event, our survival instincts kick in, triggering a cascade of physiological reactions designed to protect us, known as the fight, flight, or freeze response. In situations of extreme stress or ongoing trauma, these responses can become chronic, leading to a dysregulated stress response system.
This constant state of alertness can cause wear and tear on the body, leading to inflammation, tension, and over time, chronic pain. The pain or discomfort we feel may be the body's way of expressing unresolved emotions, its way of crying out for help.
Understanding that trauma can be stored as physical pain offers us an empowering perspective. It enables us to approach healing in a holistic way, not just addressing the physical symptoms, but diving deep to heal emotional wounds as well.
Techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, and trauma-informed bodywork can help us reconnect with our bodies, releasing stored tension and helping to restore balance.
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), and other types of psychotherapy can be immensely helpful in processing and integrating traumatic experiences.
Establishing a regular self-care routine that includes healthy nutrition, exercise, good sleep, and relaxation practices can help the body recover and build resilience.
Healing is a journey, and it's essential to remember that there's no one-size-fits-all path. Each person's experience with trauma is unique, and so is their healing process.
Despite the challenges trauma presents, it's important to remember that our bodies are incredibly resilient. They are capable of healing, of releasing stored pain, and moving towards a state of balance. By recognizing the connection between trauma and physical pain, we're taking an essential step on the path towards comprehensive healing.
So, listen to your body. It carries wisdom, strength, and the innate ability to heal. Remember, your journey isn't just about moving away from pain; it's about moving towards wellness, wholeness, and a renewed sense of self. You are more powerful than your trauma, and every step you take towards healing is a testament to your strength and resilience.