Pain happens when our brain sounds the alarm to the rest of our nervous system. This is a natural response to an injury that is meant to keep us safe. Our brain can send a danger signal to our nervous system that creates pain even if we are not injured. Because pain is connected to our brain’s response, we can also train our brains to respond differently.
According to the Institute of Medicine, approximately 100 million people in the United States experience chronic pain. There is a crisis of opioid abuse in the U.S. that is changing the way many people think about controlling pain with medications. In some cases, drugs may be necessary, but in others, controlling pain with our mind may be a healthier long-term option.
Emotional Pain and Its Connection to Physical Pain
Anyone who has been injured knows that physical pain can cause emotional pain. Who wouldn’t be angry, frustrated, or depressed to be in constant pain? However, what is less well known is the fact that emotional pain can cause physical pain. If you’re injured, your emotional pain can make your physical pain worse.
Examples of the Types of Pain You May Experience After an Injury
One way you can control your level of pain is by treating its cause. This goes beyond visiting a doctor, though you should do that as well. Any of the following three sources of pain could be contributing to your agony.
Any physical pain you experience from your injuries could last long after your accident. One example of this would be someone who sustained a back injury. Every time that person moved for the rest of their life, they could be in physical pain that would cause frustration and emotional stress. You may benefit from visiting a doctor who is a specialist in alternative pain treatments.
An example of emotional pain that may be compounding your physical pain is someone who is in a wheelchair and lost the ability to do the things they once loved, leading to isolation and depression. On top of this, they may have also lost their ability to work, which could lead to financial stress. If this sounds familiar, you may want to speak to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
One study in Psychological Science determined that people who are experiencing financial problems experience more pain. If you’re drowning in medical debt after your accident and you’re missing work, The stress from trying to cover your bills may be exacerbating your physical pain. If your injury was caused by negligence, you may want to consider speaking to a pain lawyer.
How to Train Your Mind to Overcome Pain
Your brain can rewire itself to cope with your experiences. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, that may not be a good thing because your brain could have trained itself to experience pain even after your symptoms have subsided. Because the mind and body are connected, mind-body therapies can help you overcome your pain.
Some of the techniques you can use to overcome pain include:
- Practicing yoga
- Deep breathing exercises
- Focusing on positive thinking
- Meditation with guided imagery
- Practicing mindfulness
- Practicing tai chi
- Controlling your relaxation response
- Focusing on the pain-free parts of your body
- Distracting yourself from pain
- Positive visualization exercises
If you’ve been suffering with chronic pain it can be easy to give in to the idea that it’s never going to go away and this is just the way your life is now. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Every one of us, at least to some extent, has the ability to retrain our brain to lessen the amount of pain we are in. It’s worth giving it a shot.