Embracing the Power of the Mind-Body Connection
The word pain is derived from the Greek goddess of revenge, Poine, who was sent to punish the mortal fools who had angered the gods. In ancient cultures, pain was seen as not only a physical condition, but as an emotional and spiritual one. Today, amidst a growing opioid addiction epidemic, we are fast realizing that numbing all senses to eradicate pain is not the answer. In fact, overprescribing opioids can lead to a condition known as hyperalgesia – an increased sensitivity to pain.
The mind plays a vital role in how pain sensation is processed. This is especially true when dealing with chronic pain, which sets up a vicious chemical neurotransmitter loop that feeds and exacerbates pain and depression. When we are anxious or depressed, pain feels worse. When we are distracted, pain can be lessened. There can sometimes be almost a contagious element to pain – when we see others suffer, we ourselves feel a psychic distress in witnessing their pain.
How do we use this mind-body connection to our advantage? We treat the whole person. We use therapeutic modalities to reduce stress and anxiety and affirm positive emotions. This can include meditation, physical therapy, massage, reiki, acupuncture, pet therapy and companionship. Research has shown that pain management strategies delivered with intentional support and empathy made them much more effective. For more information on the mind-body connection, The New York Times recently published an excellent article written by Dr. Haider Warrich.