A while back a client was coming to me for massages to help her shoulder tension, stress and to feel better. After her first massage she said she felt 10 years younger! She booked a back and shoulder massage roughly every six weeks or so and one time said in the pre-massage chat that after the last one she’d found that her PMT (pre menstrual tension) and then actual period a few days after the massage had been much less painful than usual.
I paused at this. I had only massaged her back and shoulders. How could this have affected sensations in her abdomen and womb? At the time I wasn’t sure, but then shortly after I attended a workshop on pain science and it made more sense.
The new theory of pain science teaches us that our experience of pain changes daily, monthly, yearly, depending on things that are going on in our lives at the time, our way of thinking about things, levels of stress, our history and experiences etc. Particularly at times of stress and anxiety, our experience of pain can be increased, so an accidental bash on a toe can feel more intense than on other occasions, or back pain may flare up. Or period pain might feel really bad for several days.
What happened with my client was that when she was more stressed in work she would experience worse period pain that month. One massage happened to be just a few days before her period was due, and the relaxing and calming effects of the massage that lasted for several days after the massage meant she felt less stressed over all, and so her experience of period pain that month wasn’t as bad as usual.
Following this revelation she started to book massages to take place just before her period so that she was as relaxed as possible. This is one example of the subtle benefits of massage, and an example of how our experience of pain from the same source can change over time depending on our personal circumstances at the time.
If you don’t feel like a massage, there are plenty of other relaxing, de-stressing or calming treats or things that you can do so that your body and brain don’t feel under so much pressure and don’t need to increase pain signals in order to make you stop and take notice. The more you incorporate beneficial things into your daily or weekly life, the better you will feel and pain will gradually feel less intense. Some ideas of things that might work for you including swimming, walking, yoga, tai chi, meditation, drawing, writing poetry, knitting, being in nature, photography, cycling, games, music etc. Doing things that make you feel good is the key. Find what works for you and see what happens.