Advances in modern medicine hold many great promises for people to live longer, healthier lives. However, there are also drawbacks to certain treatments that physicians commonly prescribed for long-term pain management. Many American citizens find it impossible to defeat chronic pain without resorting to addictive painkillers with potentially negative side effects.
What many people often overlook is that there are other ways to manage your chronic pain. Although many are skeptical, the non-invasive but effective practice of mindfulness and mind-body therapy can offer great results. Mind-body therapy consists of a variety of exercises, including meditation, journaling, cognitive behavioral therapy, education, and more. Consequently, with consistent practice, mind-body therapy helps to change the way you think about pain.
You personally may be dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis or are caring for someone who does. For this reason, understanding the science behind mindfulness and mind-body therapy allows you to break free from using opioids.
Understanding How Pain Drives the Opioid Epidemic
Currently, over 100 million Americans report living with chronic pain. These Americans represent a big opportunity to drive profit growth in the pharmaceutical industry. The majority of medical professionals learned to focus solely on the physical body when addressing health issues. This means they often turn to prescribing a medication before trying other methods when a patient suffers from pain. Unfortunately, opioids only work for a short amount of time. And as a person uses them consistently, they often need higher doses to receive the same level of pain relief.
Finding a Better Way With the Mind-body Approach
A recent report published in the New York Times reveals that drug overdoses are the currently known leading cause of death for people under the age of 50 with 64,000 people dying from these drugs in 2016 alone. Sadly, opioids are the main drug associated with overdose deaths. One can only wonder how many of these people would have never touched a pill or needle if it were not for their desperation to ease their chronic pain.
It is distressing to ruminate on the devastating effects of the current opioid epidemic. But it is far better to be proactive and explore more non-invasive methods for handling pain. And, it is important to find methods that do not leave damaging side effects in their wake. The mind-body approach to medicine is gaining new ground as more health care professionals recognize the significant contributions made by John Sarno, a physician who developed the theory that chronic pain is a psychosomatic symptom that is caused by repressed emotions through a process known as tension myoneural syndrome.
This approach works with the underlying understanding that a person’s pain is the culmination of their body’s response to past traumatic events and unexpressed emotions. Dr. Sarno had the privilege of applying his mind-body approach to treating major celebrities such as Howard Stern and Larry David who praised his ability to treat their chronic pain without resorting to prescription medicine. Dr. Sarno always made it clear that a person’s pain was real. And his technique involved helping people get over the mental blocks that interfered with their recovery.
Exploring the Benefits of the Mind-body Approach
Inspired by Dr. Sarno’s theory of the mind-body connection, researchers have continued to conduct experiments to measure its effectiveness in relieving chronic pain. A study conducted by his protégé, David Schechter, revealed that those who were treated using a mind-body technique experienced a 52 percent reduction in their chronic pain. Ruchika Prakash, a psychologist at Ohio State University found that mindfulness reduces inflammation in the brain while activating specific regions of neural activity that increase feelings of well-being and decrease stress. Learning to harness these parts of the brain allows those with chronic pain to gain control over their comfort.
Initiating the Mindfulness Technique
There are several different methods that you can use to practice the mind-body approach for pain relief. While some people perform mindfulness as part of a formal meditation, others prefer to use it throughout the day. They train their mind to focus on specific tasks with greater detail. Admittedly, It sometimes takes experimentation with different techniques along with practice to find the right methods that work for your individual needs.
For those who find comfort in writing and expressing their emotions and feelings in a more literal sense, journaling can be a great form of therapy, especially for those with chronic pain. There is no set way to keep a mindful journal or pain journal, but writing about your pain, how it feels on a certain day and rating your pain can help both you and your doctor track patterns. You may want to research different prompts to keep you writing and give you ideas about what to write about.
Because virtually everyone has a smartphone or access to a computer, it may benefit you to research different apps or programs you can take advantage of. The Curable app encompasses a variety of mind-body therapy techniques, including journaling, meditation, education, and more. If you want an app dedicated to just one technique, check out different ones for meditation, like Calm, or others that act as self-help tools for changing your behavior, like the Cognitive Diary app.
Many once viewed prescription pain medications as a magical method for ending the pain. But now we know more about the serious dangers faced by those who rely upon opioids for pain management. Fortunately, safer methods for pain relief exist. These allow you to regain control over your physical sensations by harnessing the powers of your mind.
About the Author
Maricel Tabalba is a freelance writer working with Curable Health, who is interested in writing about natural and holistic remedies, smart gadgets, emerging tech trends, and environmentally friendly advice. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.