A substantial portion of drug abuse now starts as legitimate painkiller prescriptions. Time Magazine even gave the problem front-cover status. In light of that, addiction treatment and non-chemical pain relief are practically conjoined twins when it comes to pain prevention.
We’ve talked before about painkiller addiction, about mindfulness-based pain prevention, and about Dr. Flowers’s expertise on the topic. Today, we’ll look at ways to prevent pain in the first place—thus lowering one’s risk of opiate addiction.
Of course, some pain is inevitable. Not all risks are avoidable, nor are all illnesses preventable. We can influence what happens, but not to the point of ensuring ninety years of invulnerability.
Still, much of the pain we endure—emotionally as well as physically—is partly our own fault. And not just with those who openly invite injury by speeding through red lights. Ask any doctor how many illnesses are at least partly stress-induced, and the answer will be: at least three out of four patients are literally worrying themselves sick or being eaten up by resentment.
That’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of physical injuries attributable to aggression, impatience, or worried preoccupation. Or the muscle spasms, headaches, and other lesser pains that don’t seem worth seeing a doctor about, but are bad enough to regularly make us miserable.
What’s ironic is that stress originates in the desire to protect ourselves from pain. Someone’s pushing your buttons? Find a way to shut him up before he does worse damage. Work demands look impossible? Strive long enough, and eventually you’ve got to reach a point where you can sit back and take it easy. Think about it enough, and just maybe you’ll find a way to put an end to the threat—or manage to will it out of existence.
Of course, being only human, we never succeed in creating the permanently guaranteed security we desperately crave. We only manage to prove our own helplessness over and over, until it constantly torments our minds and bodies. Next step: chronic distress, lasting pain, and increasingly frantic desire to escape by any possible means.
We all know that stress plays a role in addiction and other serious illnesses. But we may underestimate the hand it takes in everyday aches and pains. Which is unfortunate, because those “minor” problems may be warnings to do serious pain prevention.
Crank up the Adrenaline
Stress, of course, is largely responsible for releasing adrenaline, the “fight-or-flight” hormone, into our systems. In a true crisis where quick action is the only right response, adrenaline’s physical effects—pounding heart, tensing muscles, energy rushing to the sensory organs—are vital for maximizing strength, speed, and alertness. But when we constantly feed our stress with anger and anxiety, we’re effectively drugging ourselves with ongoing doses of the hormone. Results: our voluntary muscles and hearts are regularly overworked, while less-emergency-oriented organs get shortchanged—leading to tight and spasm-prone muscles on one hand, stomachaches and headaches on the other.
Unfortunately, adrenaline overdose also steals effectiveness from pain sensors and the proactive-planning sections of our brains. We may not even notice pain in time, or may find it easy to postpone doing anything about it.
Hence the principle of managing stress for pain prevention.
Give Yourself a Break
Thankfully, the mental-stress-to-physical-tension road is a two-way street. Consciously relaxing your muscles teaches them the habit of relaxing, which spreads to the brain—and to hormonal reactions.
There are two basic ways to consciously relax muscles. Try them and see what suits you best:
- Let the air out. Picture yourself as a deflating balloon. “Collapse” slowly throughout your body. “Melt” into your chair. Let your mind fly free. Breathe slowly and deeply.
- Tense–release. Scrunch up your face and clench your jaw and neck. Hold it for five seconds, then release your “holding” muscles and feel the tension evaporate. Repeat with your shoulders. Work your way down to your feet. Breathe normally throughout.
Do a muscle-relaxation routine at least hourly during the daily grind (set a timer to remind yourself) as part of your pain prevention routine.
Nurture Your Spiritual Side
If you have a religious preference, practice prayer and other spiritual-connection elements of your tradition daily. If you’re the practical-and-secular type, you can tune in to your deeper self and the larger universe through generic meditation routines (look up “meditation videos” on Google or YouTube). This is important because, no matter how capable you are, the delusion of being responsible for everything takes a stress-toll. Reminding yourself of the larger reality provides release from that and help with pain prevention.
It’s a good idea, also, to study spiritual techniques of other traditions. This isn’t a matter of “pressure to convert,” but of learning new ideas through fresh perspectives.
Listen to Your Body
All that said, pain—from tension headaches to bruises—still catches us unawares. Remember when you were a kid and ran for a kiss and bandage when you cut yourself, or asked for a glass of juice to feel better after a vaccination, or longed for “sick days” and their privileges? We adults, with our greater sense of responsibility and “staying on schedule,” forget that a little pampering is the best treatment for pain. Of course, you can’t always go right home because of a stress headache; but at least give it ten minutes in the break room with a nutritious snack.
If some persistent ache begins haunting you, review possible causes and remedies. Are you neglecting breaks and sitting for hours at a time? Should you dig out your booklet of yoga stretches? If modifying everyday issues doesn’t help, ask your doctor for advice at your next checkup.
Pain Prevention with Kemah Palms
Kemah Palms understands how tough it can be to take care of yourself in the busyness of life. That’s why our advanced pain managment program is designed to help you find lasting recovery. If you are in need of chronic pain recovery. acupuncture therapy, or massage therapy, call Kemah at 855-568-0218 today.