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Big Emotions = Pain Flare

By Carla Friesen

(Counsellor, Pain Coach, Life Coach, & Teacher)

I was angry yesterday afternoon. I felt tension in my head. And butterflies in my stomach. The same thing that happens when I get a migraine. Stress usually shows up for me where I have my chronic pain. I don’t get angry very often. I journaled and it helped to ease my anger.

This morning I felt anxious and excited. I felt tension in my neck and head, where I get my migraines. My body perceives both my anxiety and excitement as danger. It can’t really tell the difference between my emotions. It just knows that a change in emotions probably means danger. I need to remind myself that feeling excited is ok. It is fun, actually. This calms my tension some.

Greta started a part-time job on Saturday. She was also anxious. The day before she got really sick. Wondered if she had food poisoning. She felt awful on Saturday (her first day of work) but made her way through the day. By Sunday she was feeling a little better.

Our sensitive brains get protective when we have big feelings. Stress, anxiety, anger, excitement, surprise…. Strong emotions often result in a pain flare.

Sometimes these pain flares can be the old regular pain that we are so used to and sometimes it can be a completely new symptom. Like Greta having such severe stomach pains that she thought it must be food poisoning. It is always hard to know how quickly to jump on these new symptoms and try to figure them out and resolve them. Of course there are times when something needs attention immediately. But our kids with chronic pain have these overprotective brains that send pain so quickly and easily, even when there isn’t real danger.

Our fear of the pain and any new symptoms can contribute to the pain. It becomes a difficult cycle to break. And as parents, we play into that cycle. Our fear is sensed by our children. Our big emotions are sensed by our children.

I have learned that I need to practice patience during pain flares or when new symptoms come up. Remind myself that we know how to manage pain flares. And remind Greta. We need to stick to our routines, gentle movement, easing the nervous system, and remaining as functional as possible. And breathe through the contraction of the pain flare. If something strange is happening, yes, definitely get it checked out. But keep in mind that the brain is a powerful protective organ that is sending pain to keep us safe from any change.

When we verbalize our feelings, we can reassure our brains that they are safe.

~ Carla

The general contents of this website are provided solely for educational and informational purposes and are not meant to provide professional medical or psychiatric advice, counselling or therapeutic services.


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