Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Mind-Body Connection and Managing Pain

There are natural remedies, medications, and exercises that can help you manage your pain.  In fact, we’ve discussed a lot of pain management options here on the Sore No More blog.  One that we have not explored however is the mind-body connection and how meditation or guided imagery can help you with your pain.

Many people veer away from the use of mental techniques to diminish physical pain. They feel that the implication is that they’re creating their own pain, or that it’s ‘all in their head.’  This is not the case.  The truth is that mental stress can cause physical responses, which in turn can cause pain or irritate problems that already exist.

These days we live in a high-stress, fast paced world.  Stress activates your sympathetic nervous system or your ‘fight or flight’ system.   This is great if you’re defending your home from an intruder, or avoiding rear-ending the car in front of you.  The following are some physiological changes that occur when you are in a sympathetic state:

  • Your heart speeds up
  • Blood flow to your brain and muscles increases up to 400 percent
  • Your digestion stops (so it doesn't use up energy that's needed elsewhere)
  • Your muscle tension increases
  • You breathe faster, to bring more oxygen to your muscles (via)
As you can imagine, your body is not made to uphold these kinds of reactions for extended periods.  So, how can managing this response help you to manage your pain?

Let’s say, for example, that you have a herniated disk in your spine.  You travel through heavy traffic every day to get to work.  By the time you arrive, your back is aching.  You assume it’s from sitting in the car for the past hour, but what if it’s because your muscles tightened in response to events on the stressful drive to work. Thus creating more pressure in your spine and subsequently on that disc?   If you could mentally relax your muscles, you might be able to decrease the pain you experience through the rest of the work day.

This example involves stress in response to a particular situation.  However, many people who live in chronic pain live in a constant state of stress thanks to their pain.  If you can put yourself in a calm place, mentally, then you might just be pleasantly surprised by a how your pain is affected.

Please view the following links to learn more about meditation and guided imagery to manage your pain.

Sources and Further Information:
Meditation a Hit for Pain Management  << This will guide you through the ‘body scan’ process of meditation.

Meditation Techniques and Pain Management

Guided Imagery and Pain Relief

Integrative Pain Medicine << Provides an example of guided imagery

In Chronic Pain? You Might Need Psychotherapy

Also, a Youtube search of ‘Mind-Body Connection,’  ‘Guided Imagry,’ or ‘Meditation’’ will yield many more options.

*Sore No More! is not a licensed physician. All information on this blog is researched by our staff and is subject to inaccuracies. No information found here should be used in the place of advice from your doctor. * Sore No More 150 East Center Street Moab, Utah 84532 Tel: (435) 259-5931 Toll Free: (800) 842-6622