A Bodyworker’s Perspective On Pain

By Ramilton Franco, LMT #16465

We all experience pain and in one way or another it is our constant companion in life. From the moment we are born to the day we die. As a bodyworker, I am constantly living with pain or to say in it a different way, “I am always dealing with pain”. It’s the common denominator in every treatment and the number one reason people will seek help.

Pain is complex and not easily defined but here is how the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.” However, pain is a symptom that cannot be objectively assessed. I can’t look at a client and know precisely what hurts, how badly, and what the pain feels like. Pain, therefore, is whatever the person experiencing it says it is. That’s why sometimes we use a pain scale to help us quantify and document it better for future reference. But then there are other forms of pain that are psychological and emotional in nature such as a broken heart, depression, grieving, even phantom limbs pain, these are much harder to quantify or treat.

The types of pain

Acute pain is also known as “warning pain”, this type of pain comes on suddenly and signals that something is wrong inside the body. The pain is sudden and warns the person that something has gone wrong. Breaking a bone, twisting an ankle, infections, cuts and bleeding are other examples. This time of pain is outside of a bodyworker’s scope of practice and must be referred to a physician.

Chronic pain results when the underlying issue is persistent and sometimes debilitating. This type of pain is often associated with a long-term or life-threatening illness, but also is a result of musculoskeletal dysfunctions in the body caused by injuries that haven’t healed properly, postural misalignment due to repetitive motions and lack of stretching and exercise.  That’s where regular bodywork can make a huge difference and be effective as a therapy.

People’s relationship with pain can be quite different and personal depending on their own experience. It’s only natural to associate pain to something negative. Humans have used our fear of pain to inflict suffering and intimidation or to gain financially from others.  However, I do see pain as something that we should cherish too because it has a very important part to play in our health and happiness. Just like we can’t appreciate beauty without ugliness or light without darkness, pain is there for our own protection, it pushes us to act and make corrections. What would happen if we didn’t have a way to know our body was in danger?

It’s hard to imagine a life pain free because it would rob us from experiencing the world and of an important feedback in our journey to wellness. The human body is an amazing machine and just like any machine it needs to be taken care of so it can function to its full potential.