As those who suffer from chronic pain know, persistent physical pain doesn’t just affect the body – it plagues a person’s mind and emotions as well. The lingering suffering of the body makes it difficult to think clearly, to focus on tasks, and to maintain balanced emotions. It often leads to anxiety, depression, anger, and continued stress. The frustration tied to chronic physical pain often bubbles over into close relationships and affects a person’s ability to fully perform at work. Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than six months, and is often treated with a variety of prescribed painkillers.
Family doctors and Pain Management doctors typically treat chronic pain symptoms with opiates, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone and epidural injections. While these medications are valuable in managing chronic pain, they have a high potential for forming physiological dependence and psychological addiction. Unfortunately, opiate dependence and addiction (loss of control & continued use to despite harm) affect more than just the body. The habit formed from numbing the pain through medication only can wreak havoc on a person’s sense of independence. Dependence and addiction can open up unresolved emotional issues, and create new ones.
Is the end goal simply to numb the pain, or would you like to take steps toward reducing the pain for good?
Fortunately, there are alternative ways to treat chronic pain that require less or different medication, while decreasing the level of pain altogether. Techniques such as safe no impact strength-conditioning, biofeedback, and mindfulness shift your focus away from chronic pain and into a mindset centered on growth. By developing a growth-mindset through these techniques, you literally sprout new neurons in your brain! New neurons mean new mental pathways directing your thoughts down more positive routes, away from pain and into a fuller life.
Strength-Conditioning builds your physical, mental, and emotional strength so that both body and mind are more apt to handle and dispel pain. Through regular practice of a series of isometric exercises especially designed for treatment, you will increase your overall health so that the body can begin to naturally repair itself. The mind, too, will automatically develop protection against negative thinking. Intense exercise produces short-term euphoria through the release of endorphins, enkephalins, and endocannabinoids, which are the brain’s natural cannabis-like molecules. But it doesn’t stop there: with a regular practice of intense exercise, the brain will naturally develop messaging neuropeptides proteins, stimulating neural stem cells. Simply put, physical strength leads to better performance of both the body and mind, decreasing pain overall and providing you with a stronger brain to better manage pain.
Biofeedback is a technique that allows you to improve your sense of wellness by regulating specific bodily rhythms that typically occur naturally, such as heart rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, and muscle tension. By mindfully observing these rhythms, you can establish a stronger connection between your body and your mind and find more control over your own state of relaxation and pain management. One form of Biofeedback is Resonance Frequency Breathing, which strengthens your ability to remain connected with your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, even when they are uncomfortable. Resonance Frequency Breathing provides you with a tool to calm yourself down and restore your balance when an emotional trigger or moment of deep pain arises. Biofeedback is the physiologic yardstick that quantifies physiologic changes that increase relaxation, relieve pain, and promote comfortable and healthy life patterns. Through biofeedback awareness, you are more equipped to seek growth within your body and mind rather than through external alternatives, such as painkillers. By connecting your mind with your body’s rhythms, you restore calm, caring, and contentment to your life.
Mindfulness is a way of looking closely at life and is centered on a growth-mindset as you connect more intimately with yourself and your life. Mindfulness practice brings deep awareness to your everyday activities, such as eating, walking, and even breathing. Ways to practice mindfulness include closing your eyes and feeling the sensation of your breath on your nostrils and lips; savoring the first bite of your meal for as long as possible before swallowing, and even noticing the colors of your food before you take that bite. Mindfulness induces a consistent state of calm– one that you know you can always return to when life becomes hectic. A practice of mindful awareness builds new neural pathways in your brain so that you begin to know truly that there is life outside of chronic pain. As new nerve tissue sprouts, old pathways close off, and you really are a “new you”!
Through regular practice, and the support of My Addiction Physician, you will begin to see a shift in your outlook, your dependence, and your pain, and those around you will notice, too. Chronic pain doesn’t have to control your life, nor do prescription painkillers. You can lessen the grip of pain and prescription painkillers from your body and mind and move into a growth mindset that will allow you to regain your quality of life, mind, and wellbeing.
Because our brain’s nerve networks, or neural synapses, are not permanent, we are able to strengthen the thoughts & behaviors we want to keep and transform the ones that no longer serve us. Our brain’s characteristic of plasticity provides room for increased positive thinking and the opportunity to release and protect from negative thoughts. Heightened levels of the BDNF protein give neural networks the flexibility they need to move and rewire with grace and ease, which is an essential part of our ability to learn and remember new concepts and to process our experiences. The less rigid our brain’s networks are through increased BDNF levels, the more flexible, creative, and playful we can be with our thinking.