By David Joel Miller
If being mentally healthy will reduce your physical pain why is it a last resort?
Prescription drug use in America is at an all-time high. So is the abuse of prescription drugs. With more and stronger medications always being introduced why do so many Americans report chronic pain?
Doctors will prescribe all sorts of medication, sometimes even surgery, but when all else fails they will often refer the patient to counseling or a mindfulness class. Why is working on your thinking a last resort?
We know if you think about your pain, really concentrate on what is ailing you the pain grows in importance. It may even take over your life. This effect is true for both mental and physical pain.
Some simple mental techniques have been repeatedly shown to reduce the impact of pain and lessen the disability caused by those pains.
We know that those old pain involved expressions carry a lot of truth.
You are a pain in the neck – People who fit that description makes us feel sore in the neck region.
You make me sick – People who are disagreeable can affect our sleep and digestion.
We know from personal experience that dysfunctional interpersonal relationships can cause real physical pain. Learning to change or accept things in our life can go a long way towards managing our pain, both physical and mental.
Has there ever been a time when you were in serious pain and then something fun, a happy event occurred? For that brief time, you discover that you forget about your pain. Watching a funny program can reduce the feelings of sadness that are plaguing us.
In an earlier post, I wrote about “Don’t think about Elephants.” The process of trying not to think about a thing actually can make that item harder to forget. We find that rather than trying to not think about the pain, the pain in the back or the pain in the heart, we need to focus on things that are helpful and positive.
Hospitals with chronic pain clinics have found that classes in exercise, yoga especially, mindfulness and other calming techniques can reduce pain for patients who had found no relief via the medication or surgery approaches.
Yoga and mindfulness are not some metaphysical hocus pocus. As it was explained to me mindfulness is nothing more than paying attention to what you are doing. Make sure that you are walking when you walk instead of brooding about your troubles.
And yoga? What about that? One instructor told me that yoga is just exercising while breathing. If you didn’t focus on improving your breathing, yoga would just be another type of calisthenics.
Something as simple as walking each day can have a significant effect on depression.
Learning to breathe, relax and clear your mind, can be especially helpful in reducing the stress and tension in the body.
So consider including some work on your thinking and your body as part of any pain management program. As always talk with your doctor before making any sudden changes but let that doctor know you are open to some counseling or exercise if that might help control your pain.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books