Overcoming neck pain is the aim of the many sufferers of this common persisting problem–it’s in the top 10 of global health burdens! What causes neck pain? Regular readers will be familiar with the notion that pain emerges in the person, located where protection is deemed necessary. The feeling of pain, (‘I am in pain’) exists as a motivator through its unpleasantness, demanding attention and action sufficient to reduce the threat and hence leading to pain relief.
The question to ponder upon is why is this person in pain? What has created such a threat value that there is benefit from a painful experience to drive some form of change in thought and action and vice versa, such that the threat diminishes. What can potentially pose a threat? We have to say potentially because these factors will not bring about a pain response in all people as we know. The existence of pain and intensity of pain do not rely upon these factors. Instead it is the meaning and the significance given to these factors that determines what happens next. Consciously I may not believe that sitting for an hour is ‘dangerous’, yet from my body, which of course is not separate from who I think ‘I’ am, emerges the feeling of pain. This is where the sense of self becomes confusing because how can my body be separate from ‘me’. We often use language, especially to do with pain, that distances ourselves from the feeling, except this is erroneous thinking as the pain is emerging in us, much like a thought emerges and becomes conscious. Consciousness is the background upon which a small amount of what is going on appears to us, including pain and other sensory experiences that can frequently evoke emotions.
Examples of factors that can be rated as dangerous:
Inflammation (tissue damage, neurogenic)
Contexts: e.g. sitting at a desk, driving, carrying a bag
Thoughts: the meaning that we give to the pain
Stress: this is a response to perceiving a situation as being threatening rather than the actual situation itself
In other words we must look beyond, well beyond the area that hurts and think about the person and their life, which includes environments in which they inhabit (home, work, play), people they spend time with, things that they do, past experiences, pain vulnerabilities. This is the same for pain in the neck as it is with any other persisting pain problem. Only with a comprehensive view can we think broadly enough to devise a programme of treatment, training and coaching to sustainably overcome the problem.