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I’m in persistent physical pain. How might somatic therapy help me?


  • If you’re in persistent pain, you know how horrendous it is and that it impacts all aspects of life.

  • But with persistent pain, the issue isn’t necessarily in the tissues – it may be the consequence of an over-protective nervous system.

  • Somatic therapy offers the chance to explore and begin to befriend the body to develop:

    • interoception – become aware of and allow sensations, emotions and survival charge to move through your body to find a sense of completion

    • exteroception – become aware of how your external environment impacts the pain you experience so you can make conscious choices

    • proprioception – begin to find ease in movement to release bracing and protective patterns.

  • We can always change the way we engage with an experience and that helps to change our relationship with it.


Pain is really strange

In the previous post, we explored how after tissues have healed, inflammation settles, and pain sensitivity decreases, but sometimes, pain keeps occurring long after tissues have healed (1). Pain is really strange (1,2). And persistent pain brings stress, anxiety, fear of injury, poor sleep and impacts many areas of our lives (1-4).

How might somatic therapy help with chronic pain?

Our natural response to pain can be to brace against it because we don’t feel safe and are afraid of further injury or pain. We might also have some emotions associated with what has happened and the pain that we feel. If we’ve experienced a period of stress or trauma there may be some survival charge held in our implicit memory – unconscious memories that trigger our tissues to be ready to fight or flee but have nowhere to go to discharge this charge (4).


But we may not yet know how to meet these emotions or this survival charge to allow them to move through us and find a sense of completion.


We might become stuck in this protective pattern and while massage can help us find relief for a while, persistent pain frequently returns.


Somatic therapy can help us slow down, and sense and feel our bodies to notice moment-to-moment changes in sensation (developing interoception), which can show us there is movement, and things can change (5).


When we understand that things can change, we may feel less stuck. With a spirit of curiosity, we can look at the things that make the pain less intense and learn more about the things in our lives that impact how we feel (developing exteroception) (1,5). We can explore gentle, small, mindful movements (developing proprioception) that help to release the protective bracing patterns that can cause pain (6).


We can learn to meet our emotions or the survival charge, a little at a time, and allow them to move through us so that we can find more space or more aliveness where we no longer need to brace to protect ourselves – remember with persistent pain the issue isn’t necessarily in the tissues (1,5) (see previous blog post for more on this).


If we dare to explore with gentleness and curiosity, we can begin to regulate our nervous system and find some ease in our body again (1).


As we explore the stories that go along with the pain, we can also reframe them and change our relationship to what is happening to us – we can begin to feel empowered and understand what we can do to find some ease in our body, in our mind and in our life.


We can’t always change what is happening, but we can always change the way we experience it and our relationship with it.



1.     Pain revolution worksheets. Available at: (Accessed Apr 2024).

2.     Haines S. Pain is really strange. Singing Dragon, UK, 2015.

3.     Moseley L. Pain really is in the mind, but not in the way you think. Available at: (Accessed Apr 2024).

4.     Damis LF. NeuroSci 2022;3(1):63–68.

5.     Meehan E, Carter B. Front Psychol 2020;11:620381.

6.     Hanna T. Somatics: Reawakening the mind's control of movement, flexibility, and health. Da Capo, USA 2004.

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