Is pain necessary for growth?

The reason I bring this question up is that today, my left leg hurts, and I have a story about it.

The story starts small. My left leg hurts. Specifically it hurts above my knee and on my inner shin and on my outer calf. It’s a dull achiness that comes and goes.

The story gets bigger. I attribute this pain to adhesions in the fascia between muscles in my leg, and I attribute these adhesions to misalignments in my body’s structure. I’ve already straightened my spine with NUCCA. Working with my AK chiropractor to align my body is going well, but my leg is where the twist is showing up now that my pelvis is getting more aligned. My leg needs to unwind. And it’s Saturday.

(By the way, it feels true to me that the musculo-skeletal system is arranged in spirals. I dreamt a couple of months ago of seeing my left leg skinless, bloodless, with all the muscles showing individually and the bones visible. Then I went to the Our Body exhibit and saw a body with a leg just like in my dream.)

Here the story grows. My pelvis and spine have been twisted due to several factors. A car wreck in 1996 created much soft tissue injury around my sacrum and sacroiliac joints. Long before that, I experienced a severe shock to my system in my childhood, a sudden violent death of a family member. Trauma has deep and sometimes unpredictable affects on the human energy field.

And now the story gets even bigger. I was born prematurely, and it seems that I had an injury to a nerve going from my sacrum down my left leg from the time I was born, or before I was born, or shortly after I was born. I don’t remember, and my parents are gone. I do not know what happened or why I entered my lifetime with this nerve shut down.

I’m aware that some people claim to know all about past lives and karma and would probably be more than happy to tell me in a way that would alienate me from them. (You know what I mean: “I was just being honest, trying to be helpful.” I’ve done that kind of thing myself, and it’s usually deeply out of rapport with the recipient. You may be right, but you’re an asshole.)

The good news is, the nerve can come back alive. It’s not dead, it’s just been dormant. How much of our potential is like that?

Pain is a teacher, a signal that something is out of congruence, out of alignment, misfunctioning. And it is instinctive to want to avoid it. That’s why it’s such a good teacher. Pain is a kind of feedback that’s hard to ignore.

Pain is not bad. It’s just pain. It’s the nervous system doing its job. Pain feels yucky, but it has some positive points to it.

Pain motivates change. Pain motivates me to do something different, to learn something new. My specific SI joint-spine-leg pain has motivated me to do yoga, to get rolfed, to go to chiropractors, to work with Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais practitioners, to experience an array of alternative healing methods.

It’s motivated me to hang upside down and surrender to gravity pulling my body from the other direction. It’s motivated me to learn the trauma releasing exercises, and it’s drawn me to work with Patrice, my acupuncturist, who first told me to hang like a bat and to hold pigeon pose twice as long on the left side and who does myofascial release on me. (And who I can’t get hold of now either.)

I think I’ll go hang, do pigeon, and do the trauma releasing exercises.  Pain provides contrast. How would you know how good you felt if you didn’t have anything to compare it to?


3 thoughts on “Is pain necessary for growth?

  1. Mary, good morning. I shall go hang upside down now also. It always makes me feel better – partly the stretched-out-ness and partly the oxygen burst to the brain.

    Great post here – thanks!


  2. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment sharing your experience.
    As a healer, and fellow yoga teacher, I’d like to leave some advice for you about your leg injury. I hope you won’t think me an asshole!
    I don’t believe in past life reasons for present life problems. It makes no sense. When we die we go back to spirit. We don’t take any of our problems with us.
    However, I’ve found through my healing work that we do INHERIT problems. Could be that your leg issue is inherited from your ancestors. Or could be just that it started with your birth trauma. In any case, I believe that if you heal your birth trauma, it’ll fix the leg problems.
    Love, Ben


    • Ben, I respect advice from healers and yogis. Thank you for commenting. I certainly could have inherited this leg issue–my dad was born with a club foot, and I’d love to heal my birth trauma–will look into finding that kind of healer/guide. I can’t speak truth about reincarnation because I don’t know, but it makes huge sense to live as if this is it.


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