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Why Loving Your Pain Can Help You Heal It

Over one in every three people in the Western world has chronic pain. In 2012, health economists from John Hopkins University reported that the annual cost of chronic pain in the USA is as high as $635 billion a year. This is more than the yearly costs for cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined! Most of the expense was made up by the extra health care costs that occur in treating pain in addition to the indirect cost that pain has on lowering your productivity at work. If you were in chronic pain you missed more work and you earned less from your work as a result.

Pain brings not just the physical discomfort but financial and the resultant emotional stress on your family, your relationships and your self-esteem. You can understand why people want to get rid of their pain as soon as they can and by any means.

Efforts to self manage pain have left many at risk of spiralling out of control. Side-effects from the use and abuse of alcohol, antipsychotics, antidepressants, painkillers, opioid analgesics and other substances have resulted in an epidemic of drug-related deaths and addictions that is killing more people than illegal and illicit drugs.

I personally know what it is like to be in debilitating pain. For the first 15 years of my life, I endured blinding migraines and also had stress fractures of my lower back. In my 30s, the stress of trying to juggle my successful business and growing family obligations lead to a near breakdown and the return of many energy-sapping headaches.

As a chiropractor, I have spent the last thirty years and over 150 000 consultations helping thousands of patients relieve their pain. In my thirties, when I was resolving my own mind-numbing headaches, I finally figured out one simple key, that has changed my entire life and the lives of thousands of patients and their families.

My wife even thought that I REALLY was crazy when I shared my revelation with her….

” Your pain is not something you should avoid or even try to treat! You should love your pain. When you love your pain you can use it to not only heal the true cause of your pain but heal your life as well.

My wife’s forced smile in her response could not hide her initial confusion but as I further explained this concept it began to make a lot of sense to her. As I discovered later with patients, understanding pain from this important perspective can be life changing!

A greater understanding of what pain actually is and where it comes from you will lead to a greater appreciation of the benefit of learning to love your pain.

Pain is perfectly natural and healthy feedback you can use to help you heal...if you listen to it

Pain is perfectly natural and healthy feedback you can use to help you heal…if you listen to it

While studying people who are experiencing phantom limb pain in a limb they no longer have, neurophysiologists revealed that your pain does not come from the parts of your body that you think are hurting. Your pain comes from your brain! In actual fact, your pain is actually a creation of your brain. This does not mean that your pain is not real or is it a figment of your imagination! Pain is the very real creation of your brain.

So how does this affect the way you deal with pain?

When trying to eliminate your pain a common tendency is to focus your pain relief on where you feel the pain is. This research shows that such effort is commonly misdirected. To focus on the true source of your pain you need to look to your brain.

If you want to treat the cause of the pain you need to look to address what affects and influences the way the brain creates the perception of pain.

So what affects the way your brain perceives pain?

Your brain’s perception of pain is influenced by the feedback it receives from all parts of your body. Your brain continually and accurately monitors how effectively (or ineffectively) your body is working. With this continual input from all parts of your body and mind, anything that changes the level of danger to you changes the way your brain perceives pain.

The stronger you are and the better your body is working, the better equipped you are to fight off or run away from danger. In these circumstances, the sensitivity of your pain/alarm system can be set fairly low.

However, if you are physically weak, lacking fitness, lacking the proper nutrition, lacking rest, or feeling stressed or upset your body isn’t working at a lowered state of effectiveness and needs more protection. As a result, your pain system is on a heightened state of alert to protect you. Even past memories of being hurt from similar circumstances can trigger this heightened state of alarm! That means smaller irritations can provoke bigger pain responses from your more sensitive pain system.

Loss of the proper alignment or flexibility of parts of your body (particularly the spine) can interfere with your proprioception (your brain’s ability to know the exact position of where different parts of your body are). This loss of accuracy of knowing your correct body position can increase your chances of injuring some of those body parts. Also, brain function has also been shown to be affected by nutrition, rest, exercise and even by the balance of bacteria in your gut!

It is the state of your physical and emotional health and lifestyle that has the greatest influence on how your brain perceives pain. The healthier you are, the less your body perceives pain.

This is why pain should be regarded as a healthy and valuable wake up call for you to look at your overall health and wellbeing and not just at the area that is sore. Pain is a clue that you, as a detective, can use to not only to heal yourself but also to empower your entire life. Medicating and treating pain as if it is something you have to eliminate ignores the valuable gifts that come with the pain. These gifts are here to heal you.

Love your pain. Respect your pain and listen to your pain because it is your brain talking to you and trying to help you.

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