- Dealing with pain
- Common Treatments For Pain
- What If Nothing Helps?
- Pain Intensity Vs. Pain Perception
- Context Can Be Critical
- What Is Your Pain Trying To Tell You?
- Pain Requires The Right Amount Of Attention
- Mind over matter?
- A List Of Traditional Options
- Try Out Yoga
- Get Creative
- Make A Healthy Diet & Exercise Common Practice
1. Dealing with pain
Pain is rightly considered to be a basic experience in life, an inevitable fact that cannot be denied with the best will in the world. Joseph Beuys once said: “It doesn't work without pain - without pain there is no consciousness.” Pain shows us limits and teaches us things about ourselves. Pain has many faces. As with Beuys, it can also become a powerful engine for productivity.
If you are currently suffering from acute pain, it probably does not seem very helpful to you that, as a rational being, you can explain the existence of pain rationally: It warns of impending or existing tissue damage, indicates that something is wrong and - provided we pay due attention to it - keeps us from doing things that harm us. As a teacher, pain is as cruel as it is effective.
2. Common Treatments For Pain
Acute pain is usually treated fairly straightforward with local anesthesia (injections at the dentist) or with modern painkillers. The cold can also cause minor injuries, e.g. B. After a bruise during sports, find a remedy (PECH rule: break, ice, compression, lying up).
For the treatment of acute painful conditions, there are a number of alternatives available, from traditional home remedies to modern and highly effective pain relievers. So first of all, good news.
3. What If Nothing Helps?
What if the pain has been there for so long that it’s taken on a life of its own, ultimately becoming an “unwelcome house guest”, as Friedrich Schiller once called him, who himself suffered from chronic pain for 14 years.
In any case, one thing is clear: Anyone who suffers from chronic pain has to somehow manage to come to terms with it. The paths that are taken can be as different as the people and their perception of pain themselves.
The way and how severely pain is felt depends not only on biological factors such as gender, age and genetic makeup, but also on psychosocial (e.g. depression, fears or bad experiences in the past) and cultural factors, as well as pain memory ( You can learn more about pain memory in the first article of this miniseries).
4. Pain Intensity Vs. Pain Perception
It becomes clear that pain intensity and pain perception can be two completely different things. We could therefore ask ourselves how we can take our fate into our own hands. You often don't have much influence on the pain intensity - apart of course from the use of painkillers, which of course always has to be done in consultation with your treating doctor and should therefore not
be further discussed here. Only one thing should be noted at this point: Pain medicine is a separate specialist area. There are specially trained pain therapists who always focus on the treatment of pain and have different medical specialties in mind. If you want to save yourself a frustrating odyssey from doctor to doctor, you should definitely consider placing yourself in the hands of such a specialist.
5. Context Can Be Critical
Nevertheless, there are numerous things I can do myself to come to terms with the "uninvited house guest" at least a little better. In most cases, these things are primarily aimed at the perception of pain. In order to clarify the importance of conscious thought processes, we can do a little thought experiment: Imagine you wake up in the middle of the night. As you stumble to the bathroom drowsy, you notice pain in your thigh. You may be too sleepy for the first few
seconds, but then you remember: Yesterday you tried a special work-out for your legs while doing sports - apparently successful.
How do you think you will feel with this thought about the pain in your thigh? The intensity will probably not change with the memory of your workout. But the perception does. And it's pretty blatant: if you tick like most of them, you might even feel good - after all, the pain shows you that your work-out had an effect. No pain, no gain and so on.
And now to make it clear to you how much your memory affects your nocturnal toilet use, just imagine, as a counterexample, so to speak, that there was no work-out. Neither yesterday nor the day before. Personally, it would be a little different for me. With an appropriate memory I could fall asleep again much more relaxed than without.
6. What Is Your Pain Trying To Tell You?
In the above Example, the matter is clear - the magic word is context: If I know where the pain comes from, what it means, my mind can classify it. I don't have to rack my brains to see what terrible diseases are behind it and how much time I have left to say goodbye to my loved ones.
Context is incredibly important to us. If we know why something is happening, what it means and what the consequences for us are, we can classify things better. This is especially true of pain. So it can't hurt to deal with your pain calmly and as calmly as possible - what does it mean, what does it want to tell me, what does it point to?
As simple as it may sound, many respond to their pain with a fundamentally different mental attitude, namely with inner perseverance. I cannot show weakness, after all there are expectations that have to be fulfilled. Admitting to yourself that the pain has become an unpleasant houseguest, a part of me that I inevitably have to give space to, can feel like surrender. This way of thinking is not surprising; Who are not familiar with sayings like “An Indian knows no pain” from his childhood?
7. Pain Requires The Right Amount Of Attention
And it's also true: If everything in our head revolves around our pain, there is no room for anything else, not even for beautiful and important things. Our minds can only deal with a limited number of things at a time. So just as important as a thorough, honest and loving confrontation with our pain is to bring this thought process to a close. It becomes clear that an internal fight against pain has to do the opposite, because perseverance slogans will hardly impress it. What remains is the additional space that I leave to the pain without a fight, so to speak. Simply by fighting him. The pain cannot be imagined - so why not use this energy for other things. However, this should not go so far that it creates behaviors that are primarily aimed at avoidance. If you suffer z. B. in certain situations of back pain, this can lead to the fact that one tries to avoid it by holding back. In extreme cases, this can lead to the exact opposite of what was originally intended: a certain area of the body is overly spared; this ultimately leads to muscle breakdown, which in turn increases the sensitivity to pain. Short-term relief has been bought at the expense of long-term healing.
8. Mind over matter?
Our inner attitude can therefore make a major contribution to the perception of pain. Negative thoughts like “nobody can help me” not only increase the level of suffering; they also lead to passive behavior and leave behind a relentless feeling of helplessness. An active approach would be clearly an advantage here - I am not doomed to sit and watch from the bench as my pain takes control of my life. I can take action myself - I can't drive my pain away, but I can learn to come to terms with it. For my everyday life, my life, this difference can mean the world. (If you want, we'll take you with us in the third (and last?) Part of this miniseries and explore a mindfulness-based way of looking at your pain from a different angle.)
In all of this, one thing should always be clear: I alone decide how severe or "bad" a pain is. In most cases, pain is based on some type of tissue damage and there is often some way of recording and measuring it. But not always. As we have already seen above, pain can also arise independently of (potential) tissue damage. In such cases, a "You have nothing!" From the attending physician is not only not helpful, but can also be like a slap in the face for those affected. Incidentally, this could also be understood as a signal that you might be better off with another doctor, one for whom empathy and warmth are no strangers. You don't imagine pain - and even if you do, it doesn't have to say anything about whether and how much you suffer from it.
9. A List Of Traditional Options
In the meantime and for those of us who prefer things a little less abstract, there are also a few very tangible tips that you can try out when dealing with your unwelcome house guest.
9.1 Try Out Yoga
By now it should no longer be a secret that yoga can also be of tremendous help in dealing with pain. Just like Mindfulness training or meditation is not about eliminating the cause of the pain, but rather reducing your stress level through targeted exercise - and this in turn helps you to deal better with pain. As a side note, this is also the mechanism some researchers suggest when some patients report that cannabis helps them with pain, while others do not. Theory: warmth
The beneficial effects of warmth should not be underestimated either, and that applies both in the physical sense and for the warmth in a touch or encounter.
9.2 Get Creative
Be creative! Artistic activity, in whatever form, challenges us on many different levels. Whether you prefer to paint, write, practice juggling or make music - new perspectives will open up, perhaps also on us and our condition. Pain can also be directly artistically processed and thus, at least in part, externalized and made tangible. There are no limits for the fanatasy.
9.3 Make A Healthy Diet & Exercise Common Practice
Exercise & nutrition are also important factors that affect pretty much every area of our life: including how we perceive pain. Meat and animal fats contain arachidonic acid and this creates prostaglandins, which make us more sensitive to pain. Carbohydrates and sugar also have this effect because sugar is deposited in the form of fat and can trigger inflammation. In contrast to omega-3 fatty acids, which are said to have anti-inflammatory effects. Obesity, on the other hand, is rather unfavorable, because it can not only make pain worse, it can also arise in the first place.
Unfortunately, we cannot tell you what the “right” way to deal with your pain is. Pain is (and you are) far too individual for that. Perhaps the above is just right for you. Maybe it's a combination of different approaches and maybe none of these will help you. But maybe that's not that important. A lot could be gained at the beginning if we realize that pain doesn't have to be a one-way street. The "unwelcome house guest" may not be kicked out - but maybe we can come to terms with him a little better.
One possibility that we find particularly exciting is mindfulness training and we cordially invite you to try it out with us in the third part of our miniseries.