People like Ogres Like Onions: The Moving Pain Phenomenon
People are like ogres are like onions. This is something I've started saying often to describe a particular aspect of pain recovery through bodywork. Moving pain.
Pain that moves can be scary, frustrating, or make you feel crazy! After all, pain is supposed to be a signal that something is wrong, right? So if it starts to roam around, we can start to imagine that we are jacked up being repair or that multiple malfunctions are occurring at the same time. (Or worst case, we start thinking we're that dude with the scarab in The Mummy.) But in the context of massage, moving pain is actually an amazing sign of progress.
Nothing in the body works in isolation. This means most musculoskeletal injury, whether the initial injury or the commendation patterns that arise to support injury recovery, will involve several different tissues. (Click here for a more detailed example.) When the pain starts to travel then, typically disappearing from one place and popping up somewhere new as opposed to simply spreading, during or after a therapeutic massage, it is a sign that the issue is resolving and the body is communicating where to work next.
Now you might be wondering, but why would I get new pain if the body is healing? Well, you didn't. That pain was already there underneath the one for which you originally sought help. We just had to work through the people/ogre/onion layers to reveal it. The Gateway Theory of pain hypothesizes that we can only experience one sensation at a time. That is why we instinctually rub our foot or clench our first when we stub a toe; we are trying to override the painful signal with a pleasant or more bearable one. Applying that logic to unwinding complicated compensations and less affected areas, it makes sense that we would feel the pain first in the place that is most ready to be addressed. Putting it another way, are you more likely check out first the person who is squeaking or screaming?
What are your experiences with this phenomenon? Let me know in the comments!