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Pain is just - pain … or, is it?

When I first met her, Barb was in acute distress from the pain in her sternum. A month before she had had surgery for breast cancer in her left breast and had a tissue expander stitched to the bone. Turns out that she had also been experiencing migraines for about 25 years. From all of this, her stress level was pretty high.

Pain is unpleasant. It can come on suddenly, like after a fall or a knock. Or it can develop gradually over time, coming and going, in ever-increasing intensity and frequency. It can be something we just live with and get on with our life somehow. Or it can lead to a serious interference in our daily routine and activity. It can last for an hour or so, or a day or two, or perhaps even a week or two. And then disappear never to return. Or it can stay and just be there. 

As long as it’s short-lived, we may be able to cope, somehow, with it. But when it lasts for more than twelve weeks it becomes defined as chronic. 

According to the New England Journal of Medicine published in March 2016, “Chronic pain not caused by cancer is among the most prevalent and debilitating medical conditions but also among the most controversial and complex to manage.”. And also, “More than 30% of Americans have some form of acute or chronic pain. Among older adults, the prevalence of chronic pain is more than 40%.”.

As a further indication of the prevalence of pain in our society, a study from the Mayo Clinic shows that people most often visit health care providers because of skin issues, joint disorders and back pain.   

Put together, we understand that an awful lot of people suffer from pain, sometimes very incessant pain, and the conventional management of that pain with medication and surgical interventions is not always too successful. Prescription medication can help over the short term, but has the potential to become addictive leading to a whole bunch of undesirable results - even death. And the risks for side effects increase - ulcers, kidney failure, fungal infections and more. Surgery often helps - but, it too can have major side effects and often the symptoms come back.

Actually, there is another way of looking at pain and differentiating between …

Physical Pain

Physical pain is a tangible sensation that arises from actual or potential damage to bodily tissues. This is what we discussed above. 

It can be acute, such as the sharp pain from a cut or burn, or chronic, like the persistent ache of arthritis or back pain. Physical pain is often localized to a specific area and can be measured and observed through physiological symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and changes in vital signs. 

It is typically managed through medical treatments, medications, and physical therapies aimed at alleviating the underlying cause or symptoms.

Emotional Pain

Emotional pain, on the other hand, is an intangible, psychological response to experiences such as loss, rejection, trauma, or stress. It manifests as feelings of sadness, anxiety, grief, or anger and can be just as debilitating as physical pain. 

Emotional pain is not localized to a specific body part and is often expressed through mood changes, behavioral shifts, and mental distress. 

It is managed through therapeutic approaches like counseling, psychotherapy, mindfulness practices, and emotional support, which aim to address the underlying emotional wounds and promote mental well-being.

Some Key Differences between Physical and Emotional Pain




Bodily sensation

Psychological experience


Physical injury or illness

Emotional distress or psychological trauma


Physiological symptoms (e.g., inflammation, changes in vital signs)

Psychological symptoms (e.g., sadness, anxiety, behavioral changes)


Medical interventions, medications, and physical therapies

Counseling, psychotherapy, and emotional support

Understanding these differences is crucial for addressing each type of pain effectively and ensuring holistic health and well-being.

Naturopathy, or Natural Medicine, offers a different perspective and can often succeed where conventional medicine sometimes struggles. It is a system of medicine that emphasizes natural remedies and the body's intrinsic ability to heal and maintain itself. It understands that dividing pain into physical and emotional aspects is artificial. Most people suffering from one aspect are usually also suffering from the other as well.

In Naturopathy, the source of pain is not just the physical trauma or inflammation that causes the sensation. The practitioner also examines the energetic causes created by disruptions or imbalances in the body’s energy systems, unresolved emotional traumas and spiritual lessons or growth.

Energy Blockages

Physical pain can be seen as a manifestation of blocked or stagnant energy within the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, for example this is often referred to as "Qi" (life force) or “Chi” blockages. In Indian Ayurveda, it is known as “Prana”. When Qi cannot flow freely through the meridians (energy pathways), it can result in pain and illness in the corresponding physical areas. The blockages can also be caused by past experiences, negative thoughts or unresolved emotions.

Chakra Imbalances

Physical pain may be associated with imbalances or blockages in the body's energy centers, or chakras. For instance, pain in the lower back might be linked to issues with the root chakra, which is connected to feelings of safety and security.

Similarly, an imbalance in the heart chakra (Anahata) may manifest as feelings of grief, loneliness, or an inability to give or receive love.

Emotional and Mental Patterns

Energetic and spiritual traditions often hold that unresolved emotional or mental issues can manifest as physical pain. Emotions like stress, anger, grief, and fear can create energetic disturbances that eventually affect the physical body. Louise Hay, a well-known author in the field of mind-body healing, proposed that specific types of physical pain are connected to specific emotional states or beliefs.

Emotional pain often stems from unresolved traumas and experiences from the past. These unresolved emotions can become trapped in the energy body, leading to ongoing emotional distress. Healing these traumas through therapies such as energy healing, emotional release techniques, NLP or counseling can help release the pain.

Spiritual Lessons

Some spiritual perspectives suggest that physical pain and emotional pain may serve as a catalyst or teacher, guiding individuals toward greater self-awareness and spiritual growth. Pain can prompt introspection and encourage people to address deeper issues within themselves, leading to healing on multiple levels. In this way, many issues can be resolved, such as relationships and life purpose.

Karmic Influences 

In certain spiritual beliefs, pain can be linked to karmic influences from past lives or earlier in one's current life.. This means that pain - emotional or physical might be related to unresolved actions or patterns from past lives or earlier in one's current life. Healing these karmic issues through spiritual practices and healing can sometimes lead to the alleviation of the pain.

Energetic Sensitivity

Some individuals are highly sensitive and may experience physical and/or emotional pain or distress as a response to negative or discordant energies in their environment or in the people with whom they are in contact. 

Clearing these external energies through practices like space clearing, energy healing, or protective rituals can help alleviate such pain.

Negative Thought Patterns

Persistent negative thoughts and beliefs can create energetic disturbances that manifest as emotional pain. Patterns of self-criticism, fear, anger, or sadness can lower a person's vibrational frequency, leading to sustained emotional discomfort. Transforming these thought patterns through positive affirmations, meditation, and mindfulness can help alleviate emotional pain.

To find out what happened to Barb and to learn more about natural ways of treating pain, please go to  

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