CHRONIC PAIN: Remedies for physical or mental pain
How do we respond to pain, whether physical or emotional?
- The body tenses: When we are in pain, our muscles tighten around the area hurting but our entire body also tenses up in response. The increase in tension makes the pain worse. Stretching and massage are very helpful as is structured meditation. See information below on which muscles to stretch. When you hurt, don't let yourself tense up.
- Pain begets more pain: There is a strong relationship between pain and inflammation. When in pain, lower your level of inflammation. Two easy ways to do that are to exercise and to include more anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. There are many other ways to reduce inflammation. Reduce inflammation in the body overall.
- We are more fearful: We become more fearful of further pain. Fear is a destructive factor that increases pain. Reduce fear through improved breathing. (See my article on Fear, Depression & Anxiety: Simple Solutions for Complex Problems.)
- We compartmentalize the pain: Something interesting often happens when we feel pain. We try to remove ourselves from the experience. We try not to think about it. We even sometimes deny it. In so doing the pain itself actually increases. This point of view fits neatly into the main mode of western medical treatment and that is to use medication to "remove" the pain. One powerful approach is to accept the pain as part of yourself. Breathe into it and absorb and heal it. If you focus on this it's amazing how much pain reduction can result. ("Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change" is wisdom from the same story.)
- We are overwhelmed with pain: There is a high correlation between chronic pain and depression. Depression adds to the experience of pain while cutting off avenues that can help. The immobility that comes with depression places our self and our body under much more duress, both emotional and physical. Regardless of other issues, keep moving physically to reduce the effects of depression.
Which muscles should you stretch if you are in pain? In geneeral, stretch the muscles that your pain has tightened.
Stretch the hips, a technique so important that it is taught in each of the Building Better Balance DVDs.
Stretch the muscles surrounding the joint after first releasing the joint itself. Also stretch and release the joints adjacent. (Learn how to do this in the Building Better Balance DVDs.
Stretch the trapezius (back of the shoulders) and the muscles on the sides and back of the neck.
Stretch the muscles of the face, eyes and jaw.
Stretch the face, tongue and especially the front of the rib cage and concentrate on improving breathing. Our natural response to sadness and despair is to tighten the rib cage as a way of protecting a hurting heart. Reversing that physical reaction by instead lifting the heart and stretching the front of the chest helps to interrupt the pain/tension cycle.
- The back of the shoulders and neck.
- The front of the rib cage.
- Breathing always helps.
When in pain, think of improving your posture. It really helps.
After teaching simple Building Better Balance lower back exercises at a luncheon presentation, one of the attendees came up to me to say that the exercises had caused his lower back pain to disappear! The other 7 gents at his table experienced the same thing!
Pain increases inflammation.
It is therefore wise to reduce inflammation whenever possible. Click here to find out how:
The high cost of pain: Chronic pain is common.
- Emotional pain: When speaking of pain we often think only of physical pain. But emotional pain is often felt more deeply and more debilitatingly. One way emotional pain displays is with depression: Globally, 350 million people suffer from depression. Approximately 10% of Americans suffer from depressive disorders. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Twice as many women are affected by depression than men.
- Physical pain: The most common kinds of physical pain include lower back pain (27%), severe headache or migraine pain (15%) and neck pain (15%). Over 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic physical pain. This ends up costing us $600 billion dollars in medical treatments and lost productivity. For many, pain becomes a disease in its own right. It's estimated that pain disrupts the sleep of 20% of Americans a few nights a week or more.
- How pain can affect us: Adults with low back pain are often in worse physical and mental health than people who do not have low back pain: 28% of adults with low back pain report limited activity due to a chronic condition, as compared to 10% of adults who do not have low back pain. Also, adults reporting low back pain were three times as likely to be in fair or poor health and more than four times as likely to experience serious psychological distress as people without low back pain. (National Centers for Health Statistics).
The Building Better Balance DVDs show you how to reduce pain and inflammation in any area affected by deterioration or injury. For example, the DVD Developing Spine Health, incorporates effective movements that reduce tension in the lower spine as well as in the neck and shoulders.