CASE STUDY - Emily: Back pain

A woman in her early forties came in with complaints of back pain. Five auto accidents over a twelve-year period had left her with soft tissue damage and arthritis in the spine. She was already receiving chiropractic care that was helpful to her. I felt there were deep emotional matters complicating the back pain, which needed to be addressed. Initially, I was guided to attend to her heart center, which felt heavy with the sorrow of unmet needs. After clearing and softening the heart center, I attended to the spine. The spine was a column of rigidity that was holding and not letting go the energy of rage. The auto accidents were behaving as jolts to loosen up and dislodge the rage. When anger is held in the body for a very long time it turns to rage, and if the rage does not have an outlet and remains in the body, it can rigidify the spine and its surrounding muscles and tissues.

The oldest of three girls, Emily was expected to be a responsible role model and attend to the needs of her siblings. She was angry for having to assume this role and having to give up her playful girlhood. She did not have the right to complain about her situation and was not allowed to say no. She was challenged and defeated whenever she protested. There was no permission to express anger. Her years of anger for not having her needs met, and her anger for not being allowed to express anger, had taken its toll. The anger had become rage and was deeply lodged inside her spine, shoulders and jaw. Her spine couldn’t take it anymore, it was protesting with pain, and it could no longer carry the rage. It wanted release.

Discharging the rage from Emily’s spine met with resistance, resistance because of fear. Expressing rage means being confronted, accused, laughed at, and rejected; this is a scary enterprise. It is better to hold the rage than take the risk of confrontation or perhaps abandonment. Gently and slowly the resistance broke and the rage released. The energy flow in the spine began to return once the rage was reduced. Emily could now assert her needs with less fear. It is unlikely that she will have an auto accident in the future to jolt the rage out of her body since the rage is now reduced. Additionally, her heart now carries less sorrow and therefore more hope for her future. The assertive spine can now pursue her heart’s longing.


The spine offers us the skeletal structure to move through life. It’s best if we move through life without abandoning our assertive self. When our assertion is dominated we feel angry; and if we are not allowed to express the anger we feel enraged; and if we are afraid to express our rage, we freeze the rage in our body. Carrying the heavy burden of unexpressed emotions weighs down the body and tires the soul until the body cries out with pain.

One of the greatest gifts we can offer our children is the permission to express anger when it is legitimate and justified. As adults we must also learn to apologize to our children so they can feel they have rights: the right to be right, and of course the right to say no.


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