Chronic pain conditions are multi-dimensional, affecting every aspect of our being, from how our senses help us interact with the world to how we think and feel about ourselves and life. In many cases, pain conditions become “high impact,” meaning that they contribute to disability, including mental health and cognitive impairment and difficulty with daily self-care, working, and a worsening of health without additional injury. Pain conditions commonly trigger mental and emotional strain, and when it comes to effective pain management and recovery, successful treatment will include this “biopsychosocial” aspect. How does chronic pain impact our emotional and mental health, and how can the “whole person” be treated?
Becoming the Pain
When you’re in constant pain, it colors your entire experience of the world—impacting every aspect of your life without a clear and hopeful end point in sight. Mentally, this can lead to feelings of frustration, exhaustion, resentment, desperation, and even anger, and ultimately a depressive or anxious hopelessness as you identify with the pain; this easily changes your vision of a healthy future. It’s also hard to maintain typical social interactions when the only thing on your mind is your pain, so relationships may also suffer, potentially leading to further isolation. Successful pain management takes this aspect of the entire experience into consideration, and includes support in the form of counseling, reframing attachments to pain, and also developing an internal sense of control which may have been lost to the immediacy of the condition.
Care for the Whole Person
An important aspect of pain management is accurate diagnosis of the source of discomfort, and a “Big Picture” look at each patient. The body works as a system, with no parts isolated in function from the others, including our mental and energetic bodies. Pain in one shoulder may actually come from the opposite side of the neck, or may be resistant to management, and an effective treatment provider will be able to look at many elements of your life to individualize your treatment and support. Practices like Yoga can also help ease the diverse aspects of the pain experience. Not only does a gentle Hatha-style practice develop the body awareness that can improve breathing, nervous system regulation, physical and physiological function and sleep, it can help soothe stress in the mind by helping patients realize that they are not their bodies, their mental patterning, their pain, or their suffering.
Utilizing the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection
The mind is the most powerful pain management tool at our disposal, and learning how to use it to process our experience can make a huge difference in management and recovery from pain conditions. It was author Haruki Murakami that said “Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional,” noting that the energy we put into our thinking and our attachments creates and defines our experience in any endeavor. It’s to this end that meditation practices are being researched and practiced more than ever before; a 2014 study even indicated that supportive mindfulness practices changed and improved markers of cancer survival in a group of patients.
Find a Team that Knows Your Pain
At Aspire Pain Relief Institute, we understand every element of your experience of acute, chronic, and intense pain. With decades of experience in pain management and comprehensive, compassionate care, we use our expertise to deliver personalized, responsible, and effective treatment for your condition, starting at the source. Please call today to schedule a visit and learn more about your path to relief.