Your own experiences may be similar. And although it would be ideal if we could erase your pain quickly and completely, the truth is we can’t create a pain-free world. Bodies age and injuries happen. However, there is an effective approach to easing chronic pain and regaining your rich and fulfilling life. It’s a comprehensive, integrated program that focuses on five core elements that are usually diminished or missing in pain patients—and that they desperately want back. It can liberate you, at long last, from the restraints and suffering of chronic pain. Recapturing and preserving these elements is absolutely the most effective way to manage pain over the long term and heal the “pain brain.”
The five key elements that must be restored or enhanced are:
• Mobility—Your quality of life is inextricably linked to your level of mobility. The more mobile you are, the more you can engage in an active and fulfilling life. Pain can significantly limit your ability to get around or even to remain upright. And losing your mobility can limit your ability to exercise, work, shop, garden, travel, and interact with the world around you, among many other things. That’s why regaining mobility is such a critical part of a successful pain management plan. Movement itself is also important to maintaining a healthy heart and brain—so important, in fact, that research has found a direct link between how fast a person can walk and his or her life expectancy. Faster walking is correlated with more years of life.
Yoga Poses To Help Back Pain Photo Gallery
• Interaction—Pain can make you withdraw from others, shun social contact, and avoid intimacy. Withdrawing from others may serve an immediate need (e.g., you need to rest, relax, and recoup), but continued social isolation will only increase your feelings of depression, anxiety, and despair. Based on what we know about the pain equation, revving up these negative feelings can make your experience of pain even worse. Missing time from work due to pain can lead to a loss of structure in your daily life and further increase your isolation. This unfortunate cycle— pain, withdrawal, negative feelings, more pain—will rob you of valuable mechanisms for recovery, for the more alone you feel while in pain, the less likely you are to feel happy and fulfilled. Positive interaction and the emotional support you receive from others can help break this cycle and lessen your pain.
• Independence—Pain can rob you of independence on many levels, and the resulting loss of control is very stressful psychologically. Many people find it very disconcerting to rely on others when performing simple daily tasks like preparing meals, bathing, grooming, and grocery shopping. Your economic independence may also suffer if pain prevents you from working. I often see people who have lost their homes or were forced to move because they could no longer afford their mortgages or rent after going on disability. Just the act of going on disability can make you feel that you’ve lost control; you now depend on the government for financial support. In short, a loss of independence is psychologically distressing and heightens the experience of physical pain.
• Validation—If you’re like most people with chronic pain, you often feel that nobody really understands what you are experiencing, including your friends, family, coworkers, and even your doctors. And it’s no wonder; there are no blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, or other biomarkers that can adequately explain your pain. You might be experiencing excruciating pain, yet you look healthy and have fairly normal test results. Having your pain discounted by others is like a punch in the gut. Nobody wants the validity of their suffering questioned just because technology can’t identify it. Yet every day I see folks who struggle with a lack of validation of their pain.
• Love—The most basic fundamental need of human beings is love; to love others and be loved in return. But pain can strip love from your life in many different ways, and this loss can be more devastating than the pain itself. Romance, intimacy, family solidarity, and social bonds can slip away when you live with chronic pain, making the pain so much harder to bear. Thus, restoring love to your life is a critical element to overcoming chronic pain.
Addressing these five elements is the key to successful pain management and the basis of this book. In the chapters to come I’ll be looking at numerous different approaches, from calming the “pain brain” to modifying your environment, all of which are geared toward increasing your mobility, interaction with others, independence, validation, and the love in your life.
The Good News
The approaches I offer have been carefully selected from the lessons I’ve learned from my own patients. Through the years, I’ve watched, listened, and carefully noted what works, even in the face of the biggest challenges. The results I’ve seen from the approaches described in this book have been gratifying. Most of my patients have become better able to handle work functions and daily activities, and they live with lower levels of disability. Tests have consistently demonstrated positive improvements in their moods, including a reduction in both depression and anxiety. Often there are other benefits, including the ability to be more physically active and walk faster and farther. And most of my patients enjoy less interference from their pain. That is, their pain has been “pushed to the background” and no longer prevents them from embracing life. And once the pain moves to the background, you return to the center—the most important change of all—and the process of healing the “pain brain” has begun.
Witnessing the powerful changes this program can make in peoples’ lives is how I get my rush. Now I want to help you make these same changes, so you can regain your life.