Healing Tips for Chronic Body Pain
Esalen Team
June 1, 2018

The most common request received by the professional massage and bodywork practitioner sounds something like this: “Could you please do something for my back?” Many of the most valuable tools that I have developed over the last 38 years focus on relieving the pain that many people experience at some point in their life along the back and spine.

These tools, which my wife, Johanna, and I will teach in our upcoming Healing Art of Deep Bodywork: Back, Hips, and Shoulders in July, derive from three core principles guiding the bodyworker anytime they encounter pain in the soft tissue structures supporting the spine.

Pain and Fear of Pain Are Different
I had a pain researcher from Oxford University in one of my massage certifications in Germany, who recited data from her work that fear of pain could increase the actual experience of pain by a factor of up to 10X! As soon as test subjects were given mechanisms of control over the administration of pain, the same stimuli ceased to trigger pain receptors in the brain to the same degree. As professional bodyworkers, we must give our clients as much control over the pace and depth of our work as our clients need in order to feel safe!

Slow Down and Harness the Power of Gravity
We tell our students, “Slow your pace to half of what you are accustomed to, and then, cut your pace down by half again!” In slowing down, we can harness gravitational energy to do our work, rather than exhausting ourselves using muscle strength only. Gravitational energy affects the body in a much less threatening manner than deep touch generated through muscle strength. Practitioners, as well as clients feel more supported and nourished through this simple, yet profound difference.

Focus on the Sensory Experience
Our most valuable source of information about what is happening in real time in our clients’ bodies are the sensations they are experiencing moment to moment underneath our hands. When dealing with acute and chronic pain, their feedback acts as guidance for our work, helping them notice when fear begins to distort their sensory experience, increasing the actual experience of pain. As we slow down, and give them control over the pace, and depth of our work, a synergy begins to emerge where we literally work with our clients, rather than on them. This is the difference between a massage technician, and a healing artist.

Learn more about Perry and Johanna's upcoming workshop, Healing Art of Deep Bodywork: Back, Hips, and Shoulders, happening July 1-6, 2018.