How will I ever cope….. ???
Depression, fatigue, isolation and misery are only some of the vicious side-effects that result from and feed back into chronic pain. I haven’t suffered with this myself, but I do know that any ailment or pain I have for more than a week makes me want to run screaming into the night. I see people come through the hospital with chronic pain syndromes; the brokenness is visible in their eyes. Empathy doesn’t really help that much, though, unfortunately, simply because relief is so far out of reach.
Naturally, there are multiple medication aids out there, and certainly welcome on some level, but what I’m focused on is what can be done holistically. So much research and practice is going into food, exercise, meditation and acupuncture because of the promising results seen from these alternative practices used in combination with or even in place of pharmaceuticals. The spiritual factor is the least definable piece of the puzzle, but clearly when people fight from within their heart and soul, they’re less likely to crumble under the weight of the pain. Brave words spoken by Walter Settles (employee featured on Undercover Boss, episode 1) expressed this concept quite well: ” I let my spirit tell my body what’s going to happen, what I’m going to do, what I’m not going to do, because if I let the body tell me what I’m going to do, I’m not going to do very much.” WOW– this was a man dealing with kidney failure and dialysis for nearly 20 years, yet still working a demanding job. He’s the kind of person I hope to be if such pain comes into my life.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: This is showing promise across the board for anyone seeking a healthy lifestyle, but definitely important for chronic pain sufferers. Chronic inflammation typically develops from environmental toxins, stress and excess weight. It not only worsens pain, it can trigger the pain in the first place. Counteracting this condition with diet and weight loss are proving very beneficial. The basic principles are to increase the amount and variety of vegetables we eat, while decreasing our intake of red meat, dairy and simple carbohydrates. Additionally, the Mediterranean Diet shows promising results for improving mental clarity and overall brain function, which also factors into boosting the spirit.
Exercise: Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Running, Walking, Spinal adjustment: whichever form of movement a person is capable of and prefers, there is a distinct connection between motion, the mind and physical well being. Not only is there a direct physical enhancement in strength and endurance from movement, but it also distracts the mind, increases the dopamine release that makes us feel good, and promotes healing. Spiritually, it gives a sense of vitality and purpose where inactivity reinforces a sense of debilitation.
Meditation : Going beyond the obvious benefit of calming our thoughts, meditation can be used to purposefully retrain the brain’s perception of pain, and therefore recondition our response to it. Hopefully, continued research will open up this field of study further as a formal treatment.
Acupuncture: Highly studied and debated, but who can argue with such an ancient treatment? I’ll step back from an opinion on this one and leave it to the perception of the sufferer— after all, even if it truly has NO benefit other than to fool the mind into believing it works, who could possibly deny someone in pain this source of comfort?
My personal takeaway from this is that for those of us not suffering chronic pain, we should adopt some of these practices simply to feel better, improve our basic health, and possibly avoid developing chronic pain in the first place. For those currently in pain, no doubt you’ve already sought out these and countless other treatments, I can only wish for healing, and that improvements in holistic treatments will lessen the reliance on pain medications and all their associated problems. Props to those of you holding your head up, moving forward, and optimistic about the future– you are an inspiration!