Updated: Nov 9, 2019
By Quinn Akira Takei, Holistic Health Coach. Doctor of Oriental Medicine(NM), Licensed Acupuncturist, and Chinese Herbalist
It is almost inherent in our nature to move from pain and discomfort quickly. Pain and discomfort may look all kinds of ways. It may show up as back pain. Perhaps headaches or bloating is how this shows up in others. Discomfort can be itchy skin, fatigue, aching limbs, or a stiff neck. For others, discomfort or pain may look like depression, anxiety, a running mind, negative self-talk, insomnia, or just feeling unfulfilled. Regardless of how unpleasant sensations manifest, we typically want to get far away from them, as quickly as possible. In most cases, we just want it to stop... now.
Perhaps pain and discomfort can be a gift. Typically, we are so eager to get away from these sensations, we may be missing the very important messages behind these sensations. Pain and discomfort happen for a reason. There is a cause of these sensations. In some cases, these experiences are messages to us.
I start with the premise that all things happen for a reason. I do not mean this necessarily in an esoteric and metaphysical way, but simply that there is a cause and effect of all things. For example, lower back pain doesn't just doesn't happen for no reason. It has been strained in some way. A headache just doesn't happen. Pain in the head is caused by one factor or another. Sadness just doesn't happen; it is present because in some way some of our needs are not being met.
The manifestations of pain and discomfort are simply symptoms pointing to something out of balance in our lives. So what is happening that gives rise to the symptoms?
Symptoms, like pain and discomfort, can be very important. They are the "check engine lights" of our life. Symptoms arise because somewhere is something out of balance. Too often we like to squash the symptoms and keep going. Very often we ignore the symptoms and try to disconnect our "check engine" lights with pharmaceuticals. The engine is still having problems even if the "check engine" light has been intentionally cut off. I am pretty confident that we pay way better attention to our cars then our health. Usually, if a "check engine" light comes on in our car, we start to pay attention to how our car is running, and probably take it to a mechanic. Yet, related to our health, we may have "check engine" lights going off all around us in the form of pain, discomfort, high cholesterol, irritability, fatigue, hypertension, eczema... and we choose to completely ignore them. In many cases, we go out of our way to avoid having to address the issues.
Symptoms are also like the rumble strips on the side of the highway. Those really rough grooved strips next to the road make a loud nose and shake the car when you roll over them. Rumble strips make sure we don't venture too far of the road. They are intended to grab our attention and cause a disruption in the direction we are heading to keep us safe and stay on the road.
Ultimately, symptoms such as pain and discomfort may be important message to ourselves. These are the "check engine" lights asking us to really examine what we are currently doing. These sensations may be rumble strips encouraging us to disrupt our current route and adjust the path we are on. Pain and discomfort may exist for the sole purpose to show us that something we are currently doing is not serving us well. These symptoms may be our most effective guidelines directing us to what is ultimately in our best interest, even if we don't know it at the time.
The next time you experience pain or discomfort, I invite you to lean in to the experience and really pay attention. If these sensations are messages for your benefit, what are they telling you? How these sensations asking you to redirect your course? What needs aren't being met and what are you doing to cause these symptoms?
I believe there is an innate wisdom of your body and mind. This wisdom guides you, and supports you, and lets you know when you are missing the mark. Awareness of pain and discomfort as messages and gifts of guidance may support you not only in understanding the root cause of these symptoms now and prevent them from occurring in the future, but also support you becoming all you came here to be.