“I’m working with an amputee right now, they have current and real pain and they also have remembered pain – trauma stored in the body and limbs,” explains Emma Trow, Goldster’s singing teacher. “When we sing, I work with deep pressure to any surface that they are attached to,” So when someone is sat down she urges them to press down into the seat with their bones. Or if they’ve got a cushion behind them to push into the cushion.
“When you’re applying pressure the muscles fire up in the body against that pressure,” continues Emma. “These are ‘muscle energy techniques’ muscle groups that fire up that were not responding. It stabilises them and brings them back to the present body.” According to Emma when you do support a voice using muscular energy, everything gets more powerful – more power, more range, more flexibility and more stamina.
She uses other forms of pain relief, too, with singing. A singing warm up with physical and vocal movement; is not a static practice. The lyricism and movement of the song takes the body and breath somewhere. Then there’s singing as high as possible and as low as possible to take the voice through the emotional expression it’s capable of. This is using the larynx and the thyroid cartilage in the larynx with the aim of becoming pain-free by passing through all the emotional states. In passing through those states we release pain stored from trauma which connects to our emotional range.
Harry Langham, Goldster’s poetry tutor, also has techniques to aid pain relief. “Poetry is useful in a few ways on that front. Firstly there is a difficulty that comes with writing poetry – the reading and the writing of it. It requires attention. In difficult times, the craft of writing and reading poetry can be a useful diversion of focus, rather than concentrating on pain.” He reckons that writing poetry also offers you a space to distance yourself from the pain. “You look at your own feeling objectively and your experience of pain.” What’s more, Harry, trying to empathise with chronic pain sufferers, imagines what it might be like to be suffering from chronic pain. “It becomes the story, it can preoccupy you and define you, You can become your pain” he thinks, saying that when pain takes over, poetry gives you the opportunity to write a different story.
“This chimes perfectly with what I’ve inexpertly thought,” says creative writing teacher David Mark, of creative solutions to pain. “You can’t write your way out of a migraine but you can distract yourself.” He thinks the more you’ve put on paper and shared, the less you carry with you. “I’ve seen people who’ve come to writing for the first time and it’s like they’ve been baptised.”
With David’s own struggles he feels that there’s never been a time when forcing himself to write has been a bad thing. “You get your thoughts into cohesive shape, you unburden yourself. If you’re going to write you may as well write well. Turn the pain into something on the page.” He feels books and art and music written from a perspective of pain are by far the most affecting. “When things are going well there’s nothing to say. Chronic pain and emotional pain is an inkwell. This is a chance for you to look inside and see what you’ve got to say. And to lighten the load a little.” And this has worked for David too – he wrote a memoir a few years ago about mental health issues and emotional pain and found it “scary but very cathartic.”
Joanna Cooke, Goldster’s art teacher says this: “it’s well known and has been well documented that creativity is extremely good for emotional and physical health and for dealing with pain. When we embark on a creative process three things happen: One: We become distracted, this is good to get perspective and balance. Two: relaxation, it is so important to feel stillness and calm. It lowers heart rate and blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety and three: we reach a deeper self-understanding, knowing ourselves better and to be much more than the pain we’re experiencing.” According to Joanna, when we learn a new skill, eg how to draw, we are flexing our mental muscles and problem solving and increasing feelings of accomplishment. Once we learn to draw we have a talent that increases self-esteem. We develop a sense of bravery – we don’t have to be bound by our limitations and previous definitions of how we are including pain. “There are extremely powerful benefits of doing art,” she concludes, “And anyone can learn.”
Join Goldster on Sunday 8th October at 2pm for our live Pain Management masterclass! Explore beyond the limitations of traditional methods and experience a future where self-expression becomes a tool for pain relief.
Everyone is welcome and it's FREE to attend! Simply click here to sign up.