Chronic Pain: a symptom of trauma?

How does Trauma dys-regulate the physiology and lead to symptoms like chronic pain?
How does orienting to the present and to pleasant or neutral experience through our senses and building safety in relationship to ourselves and others help us self-regulate and heal “trauma physiology”?
What self-care measures can be part of my healing from pain and trauma?

Trauma has been defined as anything that happens too fast, too much, too soon and that brings us outside of the functional range of the our system. The response to traumatic stress, which releases a physiological response and tremendous amount of energy to complete a sequence of protective impulses , is meant to be life saving and short lived. Activated in the primitive brain, this is our FIGHT, FLIGHT, & FREEZE response. When the system is overwhelmed, the natural completion of the trauma physiology and protective impulses are disrupted. Even though the events are over, there is a continued high levels of energy in the system, as well as an urgent sense of threat and danger.

Resting in the shade

Chronic pain is now being understood as sensitization of the central nervous system. Sensitization through trauma, where there are high levels of system activation, may have been a part of or even present before a pain inducing event. Kaiser’s study of Adverse Childhood Experience shows a very strong relationship between childhood trauma and conditions such as chronic pain.
Another definition of trauma is a dysfunction in the ability to be in the present moment. With trauma, the ability to process, experience and lay down coherent memory is impaired. Memory fragmentation leads to a sense of disorientation–we’re separated from the present, from our environment, from our emotions, and from clear and flexible thinking.

Somatic Experiencing, a trauma resolution therapy, gently and playfully helps us re-orient to the present moment. Bringing our attention to pleasant and neutral experience in a warm and safe relationship, we gradually begin to process small bits of the trauma physiology and notice and follow our impulses to complete self-protective responses. We reconnect with our emotions, create new meanings.—a sense of “I can”, and recover our own life-force.