Joint Pain Pt. 3: Our Emotional Bone Matrix

September 26th, 2016





“Don’t allow your mind to tell your heart what to do. The mind gives up easily”

― Paulo Coelho




Philosophically speaking




In the third and final part of this series on joint pain, its causes and potential cures (click here and here for the first two instalments if you missed them) we will look at two very different perspectives. They touch on an old and well worn debate between what moulds us into the physical and psychological beings that we are.


Is it because of our nature – that is, what has been passed down to us genetically through generations of our bloodline? Or, has it more to do with the many influences we have absorbed and the adaptations we have made as a result of our adventures in the world?


In any case, what has all this to do with joint pain? As always, I’m so glad you asked…



The genetic debate


Western medical science puts great stock in the reach and influence of genetic inheritance in our lives. It can sometimes seem that illness is inevitable just because some of our relatives have suffered the same illness. Animal husbandry (a peculiar term, particularly as the wives are never mentioned…) clearly demonstrates that certain physical traits can be bred in (or out) of a particular bloodline.





Breeders of pedigree dogs for example are very aware of the tendency for certain breeds to develop specific illnesses attributed to that breed. Humans rarely breed so ‘purely’ however. So, how might genetic inheritance affect human beings – and in particular, what role might it play in diseases and problems with our bones and joints?



Inherited vulnerability


There is a debate in the medical profession that many of our problems are genetically based and therefore there is little we can do about them beyond the palliative treatment of symptoms that will inevitably arise. Many reading/listening to this blog may have heard such sweeping statements from their doctors that their disease was inevitable because of their family history.


This is both a very disempowering view of our role in our own health and shows an as yet unjustifiable trust in the reliability of genetic prediction in health issues. Let us take a quick look at the current state of play in genetic prediction.



Marking our territory


The discovery of genetic markers has (potentially at least) enabled us to identify problems in specific health areas for each individual. Even proponents of this approach admit it is still a nascent science however. The following is an extract outlining some of the challenges for this method.


“However, given that (i) medical traits result from a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors, (ii) the underlying genetic architectures for susceptibility to common diseases are not well-understood, and (iii) replicable susceptibility alleles, in combination, account for only a moderate amount of disease heritability, there are substantial challenges to constructing and implementing genetic risk prediction models.” 1


'Max really likes those genetic markers.'

‘Max really likes those genetic markers.’



What all this means is that, contrary to what many would have us believe, the totality of who we are cannot be broken down into pieces of DNA on a chromosome.



Are our bones really part of our endocrine system?


There are other new and intriguing developments in the nature of our bone matrix however. In one sense, it could be seen as part of our endocrine system. Research into a substance called osteocalcin demonstrates that bone does a lot more than provide structural support and act as a storage house for calcium and phosphorus.

 It can also play significant roles in male reproduction, blood sugar regulation, memory and our moods. 2


What might all this mean for joint pain sufferers? It suggests a far greater connection and two way communication between the body and the mind. In other words the state of our bones affect our mind and the state of our mind affects our bones.



Everything old is new again – the energy consciousness model and the bones


As it turns out, none of this is new at all. Over 3000 years ago the ancient Chinese (of course they didn’t consider themselves ancient back then but we digress again…) made very specific physical and psycho-emotional relationships between us and our bones.


They made the connection between the bones, bone marrow and the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). They also made the connection with our adrenal glands (part of our larger endocrine system) and our capacity to reproduce – which of course is how we transfer genetic inheritance.




Emotionally, these were associated with with fear/survival states – something we in the modern world would put under the umbrella heading of ‘stress’. All these functions (and quite a few more) were put under control of the Water element (click here for more on that).


If that were not enough, the connective tissue that bound the bones and joints to our muscles in a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit was linked (in its negative state of dis-ease) with the psycho-emotional states of anger, frustration, powerlessness, limitation and defeat. These areas were placed under the control of the binding roots of the the Wood (or ‘Tree’) element and the organs of the liver and gallbladder.


So what does all this have to do with pain in the joints?



I can feel it my bones!





How we feel about ourselves and the world around us affects how we feel in the body and visa-versa. To many reading this that may (or not) seem obvious. Here are some specifics though from the point of view of joint pain.


  • Fear survival states (economic or work related stress, unhappy relationships, ageing and fear of death etc) raise cortisol levels (secreted by the adrenal glands remember) and lowers our bone density. Over time this state of affairs will weaken our joints as well.
  • Anger, frustration and powerlessness increases muscle and connective tissue tension and restricts proper movement and flexibility. It also creates internal heat and contributes to our old friend and fire starter from part two of this series: low-grade inflammation.
    • Imagine driving your car around with the handbrake half on and you can understand the wear and tear this perfect storm of causation creates in the body.


This brings to mind a self ‘diagnosis’ made famous by an Irish woman with advanced inflammatory arthritis. She attributed it to “Bottled up mad.”



The peaceful wanderer/philosopher




Of course, what has been described above is the negative state of disease at work. What is the alternative?


The Wood element’s spiritual expression describes two aspects:


  1. The Warrior/General in charge of our defences (which include our physical immunity and maintaining personal power and integrity)
  2. The Peaceful Wanderer/Philosopher: the part of us that can see the big picture and does not sweat the small stuff – because, ultimately, it is all small stuff.


There is a saying in Zen Buddhism that likens our frustrated, powerless state to an angry bull charging at the gates and fences. Their sage advice is to give the bull a large space in which it can no longer see the fences.



Ridding ourselves of self-imposed limitations


During my clinical life over the last three decades I have lost count of the cases where the underlying, causative factor could be summed up as self-imposed limitation.


At War with Self. All rights reserved.

At War with Self. All rights reserved.


Take a moment to consider the symbolism of joint pain and hindered mobility and flexibility. It looks like the person is caught in the trap of their own body. They writhe in pain, struggle at both the physical limitation and the frustrating injustice of their situation like an insect caught in a sticky web.




Self respect and love


“People ask for so little.” as a dear friend used to say. That is, they too easily resign themselves to fates they assume are inevitable and accept situations where they are limited, disrespected and unloved.


This of course cycles around where they treat themselves with the same disrespect and lack of love just as they continue to attract and receive more of the same from others. Is it any wonder an addiction to painkillers is such a huge elephant in the room and the cause of more ‘accidental suicides’ every year?



Setting ourselves free




This blog has already run overtime but we will finish with a few tips on releasing ourselves from our own prison.


  1. Observe where we criticise, judge and blame ourselves.
  2. Make a conscious choice to remove negative thoughts and comments about ourselves.


This is not honesty or humility.  It is garden variety low self esteem and not honourable or useful to us in any way. Low self esteem does not invite sympathy or respect. It attracts contempt and abuse. If you find yourself in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship – get out.



Putting up with abuse either from within or without will only invite further anger and frustration into our heart in a futile and dysfunctional attempt to regain the power we ourselves have sabotaged and allowed others to abuse.


If we cannot love, respect and value ourselves, how can we reasonably expect others to treat us differently? Whatever passive-aggressive point we are trying to make will not be heard anyway and we will only be worse off. If we do not make the choice to respect ourselves and act upon it we will further give our power away to others in the form of operations and strong medications .


Beware of those medications though – the temptation to remain ‘comfortably numb’ and separated from ourselves can be fatally seductive.




Till another Monday is not only the beginning of a new week but a fresh start on how we want the rest of our life to be,



1 Front Genet. 2014; 5: 162.

Published online 2014 Jun 2. doi:  10.3389/fgene.2014.00162, PMCID: PMC4040440)




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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