Pain is more than a feeling, but a physical event in the body, with physical, neurological, and psychological effects. When pain is present for extended periods of time or becomes chronic, it changes how our bodies think and feel. Mental health care and counseling can help treat these changes and can often reduce pain levels.

Pain feelings are real, and are subjective, which means that there is no outside test to determine how much pain someone is in. In many ways, pain is like an alarm in the body, and the volume of the alarm can get turned up or down, depending on a lot of complex physical factors. There are mental techniques that help regulate the volume of the alarm and turn it back down, and counseling and mindfulness both help with this process.

Some people with chronic pain or a pain syndrome are reluctant to access mental health care for their pain, because there is a worry that if it is “all in your head”, then it “isn’t real.” Pain is never “all in your head,” but it does have specific mental and emotional consequences in addition to the ways it physically affects the body. All of these effects are real, and deserve to be treated and addressed through care.

Pain changes the way your brain works, and mental health care like counseling can help manage these changes and the stress, depression, anxiety, and other feelings that pain can cause. Our bodies are complex systems, and our minds are a part of that system. Easing suffering is important, and counseling for pain helps do that.

Our bodies are made to move! Deep biological processes in the organs, tissues, and nervous system are based on a foundation of physical movement and activity. This is why therapeutic movement can have such profound health and healing effects; the right kinds of movement can restore function and health at their root.

Therapeutic Movement classes like we offer at Ha.Lé are designed to work for a wide range of bodies, ages, and experience levels. They help create health, reduce stress, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. On a physical level, they:

  • Increase circulation
  • Increase bone density
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Release tension
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve balance

Movement classes also provide significant mental health support by increasing mental clarity, reducing anxiety, and stabilizing mood. We can then further strengthen the mind-body connection by adding mindfulness practices and body awareness in order to boost the stress and pain management benefits. Being in class also activates social wiring and mirror neurons in the brain, deepening your practice through being in community.

One of the most effective ways to support your health and feel better in your body and mind is to set aside time for therapeutic movement classes. It creates a space dedicated to caring for yourself, and activates deep natural processes of health.

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make a variety of interesting sounds. Especially if you are increasing or changing your physical activity level, these sounds can be alarming. Often they cause worry about the health of the joint and whether something serious could be wrong.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just noisy or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. (Hydration in this case means more than just drinking enough liquids; it means using movement or manual therapies to move fluids through the tissues themselves.) Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Ashiatsu is a technique integrated into most Ha.Lé Bodywork sessions because it is such an effective healing tool. In Japanese, the root wood “ashi” means foot and “atsu” means pressure. Ashiatsu, or “foot pressure”, involves the therapist using her feet as well as her hands during the session.

Controlled foot pressure uses physics of both bodies – therapist and client – for maximum benefit. With feet, the therapist activates acupressure points and spreads tissue fibers, distributing more body weight and pressure than what is available with just the hands and arms. Ashiatsu techniques are especially effective for addressing muscle tension and relieving the symptoms of chronic soft tissue damage. They also help loosen scar tissue adhesions and are a profound way to receive myofascial release.

Sometimes Ashiatsu is misunderstood as a massage where someone walks on your back. In fact, it is much more complex and effective than that. The therapist uses bars and straps above the table to control the exact amount of weight and pressure, giving her excellent control over the depth of treatment. This means that she is able to work as deeply or gently as necessary in order to address your specific needs.

Ashiatsu is a very responsive and personal bodywork technique, and can create a strong bond between therapist and client. This bond increases the client’s comfort level, which makes the session more effective. We also use an Ashiatsu method of sinking into muscle fibers as breath allows, so that the pace and knowledge of our therapist makes the treatments therapeutic, profound, and beneficial.

Ashiatsu Bodywork is a powerful set of techniques that often form the core of our integrative treatments. It works with tissues of the body in deep, powerful ways to reduce pain, release tension, and create health.

Our necks are amazing structures that allow us to a great deal of flexibility to see, hear, and smell, even as they are strong enough to protect the spinal column connecting the brain to the rest of the body. As a flexible, nerve-rich body part, they can also be a source of a lot of pain when they develop imbalances. Integrative care can address these imbalances and reduce both long term and short term neck pain.

Bodywork is an effective treatment for neck pain. Muscular tension in the neck, upper back, and shoulders can all cause neck pain, and bodywork is able to effectively release that tension and address any underlying issues with the connective tissue and fascia that may be contributing to chronic discomfort. Neck pain does not always originate in the structures of the neck and shoulders, but can also be caused by foot and gait issues, pelvic issues, low and mid back imbalances, jaw dysfunctions, and more. Whole body treatments are able to address the alignment and structure of all of these, helping to release tension elsewhere in the body in order to improve neck health.

Acupuncture is especially effective for chronic neck pain. When the body is in pain for long periods of time, the nervous system can become imbalanced and oversensitized to the pain signals. This has the effect of turning up the volume of the pain and increasing discomfort. Acupuncture is able to turn the volume back down by regulating the nervous system and addressing the oversensitization.

Movement classes are a great way to address the posture, gait, and tension issues that contribute to neck pain. By building awareness of how we carry ourselves and how we move in gravity, we are able to retrain our movement patterns toward better alignment. Stretching and moving also release long held muscular tension and improve blood flow to distressed tissues, encouraging them to heal.

Neck pain is linked to stress, tension, and structural imbalances in the body. Bodywork, acupuncture, and movement classes are all able to reduce stress levels, release tension, and address imbalances in order to relieve neck pain and support overall wellbeing.

Cupping Therapy is a powerful integrative health tool. It works well as a treatment on its own, and also helps boost the effectiveness of other treatments like bodywork and acupuncture.

Muscle Tension: Cupping Therapy involves placing specialized cups on the body to provide negative pressure (upward lift) on the tissues. This helps to open up muscle and tissue, releasing short term and long term muscle tension.

Blood Flow: Cupping Therapy is very effective for bringing blood flow to an area of the body, especially if that area is feeling stagnant, like in the back or the arm. A lot of the pain of muscle tension comes from the fact that the muscle is contracted so hard that it is not able to receive enough blood flow. Specifically drawing blood flow into the tissues helps to relieve the pain of restricted blood flow and encourage repair of damaged tissues.

Myofascial Release: Cupping Therapy helps jump start myofascial release. The negative pressure combined with movement gives a different sensation than other myofascial techniques and helps the muscle reset itself to where it needs to be because the fascia has released. It is a great complement to other techniques and can sometimes create shifts that provide instant relief and allow chronic problems to just fade away.

Cupping therapy also helps improve the flow of qi, move lymph in order to support the immune system, and break up scar tissue. It often leaves marks on the skin where the blood has been drawn to the surface, and these marks generally fade in a few days, though they can last up to a few weeks.

Whether as a stand alone therapy or incorporated into a bodywork or acupuncture session, Cupping Therapy is an effective way to treat pain, muscle tension, and other imbalances. It improves the flow of blood, lymph, and qi, and creates space for health in the body.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, and research has concluded that integrative care offers the best treatment. An analysis of over 150 studies, published in 2017 by the American College of Physicians, recommends movement therapies, bodywork, acupuncture, and mindfulness as effective treatments, instead of medications.

Integrative care for back pain focuses on techniques that speed up the healing process, relax muscle tension, and address structural issues in joints and tendons that affect the physical health of the back and spine. It can also address pain management directly, helping to regulate the nervous system and reduce the sensation of pain in general.

Movement therapies like classes and clinics are able to address the mechanics of the back, helping to correct imbalanced movement patterns that contribute to pain. Through mindful awareness, neuroplasticity, alignment, and restorative practice, movement therapies can correct and retrain the body away from dysfunction.

Acupuncture is proven to be effective at reducing pain levels in general, and is a great way to address back pain specifically. It helps rebalance underlying issues that contribute to the back pain, as well as working with the nervous system to lower the intensity of pain signals and the perception of pain overall.

Bodywork is able to address the specific muscle tension and joint health that causes a lot of back pain, increasing blood and nutrient flow and supporting the body’s own healing processes. It is able to effectively release tension, address fascial issues, and treat the secondary pain and tension that comes from protective movement.

Mindfulness can also be effective for back pain because it is proven to help lower pain levels in general. After eight weeks of mindfulness practice, there are specific changes that happen in the brain and how it relates to the nervous system, turning down the volume on pain signals and the stress response that pain signals cause.

At Ha.Lé, we are experienced in treating back pain, and will work with you to determine the best course of treatment for your specific situation. Our classes and clinics are able to work with students with a wide variety of back health concerns, and our therapists are able to specifically address the symptoms and imbalances of back pain.

Migraine headaches are a common response to both mental and physical stress, and happen more often in women than men. There is no cure for migraines, but there are ways to reduce the symptoms. Acupuncture, Bodywork, Movement, and Mindfulness are integrative treatment options with effective results, without the side effects of medication.

Acupuncture reduces the frequency of migraines with the same effectiveness as preventative medications. Up to 59% of people with migraines see a 50% or more drop in the frequency of their headaches, and the effect of 6 weekly sessions can last for 6 months or more.

Bodywork is also a helpful migraine treatment. It generally reduces the frequency of migraines and improves sleep. On average, it can reduce migraines by 30-34% for up to 4 weeks, according to a 2006 study.

Movement with a therapeutic focus will also reduce migraine frequency and intensity. Migraines are associated with disturbances in the autonomic nervous system and in the regulation of the circulatory system. Movement classes help restore and regulate these systems, as well as target tension and stress that can contribute to headaches.

Mindfulness helps to significantly lower the pain intensity of migraines and correct the effects of stress on the body. One study that looked at mindfulness for migraines found that it had no adverse events, zero drop outs, and excellent adherence, which is a big contrast from pharmaceutical treatment.

Migraines are a disorder of a hyper-excitable brain, and so integrative therapies that reduce stress, rebalance the nervous system, regulate sleep cycles, and lower pain levels can be effective treatment. The medications available only work for 50% of people, and come with significant side effects. Research has shown that Acupuncture is just as effective as those medications, and other integrative treatments are also able to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines.

The breath is one of our most important healing tools, and possibly one of the most overlooked. Breathing is something we do all day, every day, usually without conscious thought. Because it is so constant, it disappears into the background of our body awareness. When we consciously think about and change the breath, we are able to speak to the body in very profound ways.

The breath is one of the easiest bridges between the parts of our bodies that we can control and the bodily processes that are not conscious. It is a biological process that naturally falls into both categories, and so becomes a way for our mind to speak to our body directly.

Deep breathing: When we take a deep breath, it stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that calms the body, helping us come out of a state of stress and distress, and move toward rest, restoration, and healing. Deep breathing helps reduce emotional distress and anxiety because it changes how those feelings are felt in the physical body. It can also help bring a sense of calm centeredness and overall wellbeing.

Breath awareness: Turning our attention to the breath is a fundamental mindfulness practice. When we pay attention to the flow of air in and out of our bodies, it cues the mind to tune into the present moment. This allows us to drop the anxiety and stress that comes with thinking about the past and future, and brings us more fully present to the physical reality of being alive. When we practice mindfulness like this, it can rewire neural pathways in the brain to reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and stress.

Breath in the body: The breath is also a physical event in the body, engaging a complex array of muscles and tissues and massaging the internal organs. Injuries, surgeries, and chronic stress can change the way the body breathes, which in turn can cause chronic tension and pain. Linking movement with the breath can help release this muscle tension and reset neuromuscular patterns. There are also breath awareness and breathing techniques that can help address structural issues like pain in the low back, pelvis, and neck and shoulders.

The breath is a powerful healing tool that allows us to speak to parts of the body that we cannot reach with the mind alone. By changing how we breathe and how we pay attention to our breath, we are able to counter the effects of chronic stress, reduce anxiety, release muscle tension, treat pain, and bring a sense of overall wellbeing.

Our body is not separate from our mind, but instead they are aspects of the same system. An event in the body creates a response in the mind, and feelings and thoughts in the mind create physical responses in the body. When creating health, it is often necessary to address the mental and emotional aspects of distress as well as the physical effects.

Biologically, there are multiple ways that the mind and body communicate. Three of these pathways physically respond to our thoughts and feelings through the neurological system, endocrine system, and immune system. We are wired this way so that our bodies know when to prepare for danger and when it is safe to focus on digestion and healing.

When confronted with stress and danger, our bodies divert resources away from long term health in order to maintain short term survival. This means that our ability to fight off infection, to remain calm and centered, to fully and comfortably digest our food, and to have enough restful sleep is sacrificed in order to run away from lions, even if they are not real lions.

The reverse is also true. When our bodies experience pain and distress, it impacts our thoughts and feelings. The pain affects our nervous system, causing distinct physiological changes that can result in depression or anxiety. It also impacts our ability to keep things in perspective, increasing our worry and fear to levels above what helps keep us safe.

This is why mental health counseling is such an important part of what we do at Ha.Lé, and we have recently expanded our counseling offerings. All of our counselors understand the deep connection between the body and the mind, and bring deep compassion and expertise their sessions. We are here to help you create health for your whole mind and body.