How Pain Makes Us Healthy
Looking at the healthy side of pain might seem akin to visiting the dark side of the moon– you know it exists but no one wants to go there. For a while, I thought I must be going crazy (and many others were quick to agree!) thinking I was the only one who saw the healthy side of pain.
Practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine approach pain relief from a wider and more holistic perspective than typical medical approaches. Research is now showing that this more holistic approach helps not only reduce your pain but has additional benefits to your health.
In 2010, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington interviewed 327 people who had participated in five clinical trials of six different complementary and alternative therapies for the treatment of back pain. These five studies found that all of these alternative therapies were helpful in reducing back pain. The interview sought to clarify if there were any other effects of the treatments in addition to relief of back pain and published the results in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine.
The common benefits they found in addition to back pain relief were:
- Increased options and hope
- Increased ability to relax
- Positive changes in emotional states
- Increased body awareness
- Changes in thinking that increased the ability to cope with back pain
- Increased sense of wellbeing
- Improvement in physical conditions unrelated to back pain
- Increased energy
- Increased patient activation
- Dramatic improvements in health and wellbeing
The researchers noted that “Some of these effects were considered to be life transforming.”
But how can people who treat pain through alternate therapies get all these additional health benefits that doesn’t occur with people who medicate their pain?
The answer lies into how you interpret pain.
You may think that pain is an indication of some local damage or strain and then focus your attention on the site of pain. You then get treatment on the injured area or take some medication to decrease the pain.
But treating pain this way has its flaws.
Firstly, you are assuming that the site of the pain is also the cause of the pain. In 25 years of private practice I have found this to be rarely the case.
Secondly, you are treating pain as something that you need to stop.
The way complementary and alternative medicine practitioners view pain is different…
They view pain as feedback from the body from a wider perspective. They seek to treat the person rather than treating the pain. They ask questions like “ What is inhibiting your body from self-healing so you don’t have that pain?”
As a result, treatment is directed to the whole body, mind and lifestyle issues as opposed to the conventional medical approach of treating the isolated painful body parts.
What if pain was a lot more than an indication of the site of a local strain or sprain?
These results suggest there are added health benefits from perceiving and treating pain differently. In fact a healthier interpretation of pain could be considering it as your body’s wake<-up call to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Rather than exploring ways to treat or medicate your pain a more successful approach is to be using your pain to look at what is amiss with your overall health and lifestyle.
Address these particular health and lifestyle issues (which can inhibit your body self-healing) and you will start to remedy the underlying causes of your pain and heal your overall life at the same time– the healthy side effect of viewing your pain from a different perspective.