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If you suffer from chronic pain, you know it spills over into every part of your life. Holding your children can trigger unbearable back spasms. Going to a movie or watching a play can turn a low-grade headache into a full-blown migraine. Arthritis can weaken hands, legs and feet so that tossing a ball or buckling a seatbelt is too painful and exhausting to attempt.
Good Pain and Bad Pain
Acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself. Chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years .
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, chronic pain is bad pain. It is pain that serves no productive purpose. It is a system gone awry. In essence, the pain limits your ability to enjoy your life, to spend time with family and to get the exercise you need to be healthy. All this can lead to sleep disorders and feelings of isolation, mood swings and depression.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
The origin of chronic pain in some cases can be pinpointed to an injury or illness that you never really recovered from (such as damaged nerves from a broken bone or infection). In other cases, the cause is not known. The pain has no visible origin, no tangible reason for being. And yet the pain is never ending, unforgiving. In those cases, your doctor may label your pain as “psychogenic”. The very name seems to have negative connotations. And in many cases, especially with the US healthcare system, it makes it even harder to find treatment.
One thing is for sure, 95 percent of all illness in America is caused by or exacerbated by mental stress.
While traditional Western medicine in the form of pain killers, anti-inflammatory medication and surgery may not always work. There are some forward thinking physicians such as Dr. Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, who are designing new and effective ways to treat pain.
Regarded by many as the godfather of modern mind/body medicine, Benson coined the phrase relaxation response — the body’s natural counter-move to stress, sickness and chronic pain. This relaxation response is a physiological change that has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to relieve the tensions of modern-day living for a healthier, pain free, more productive life.
How can you bring about the relaxation response in you body?
Yoga, Tai Chi and other forms of meditation and visualization are common practices that many people use to reduce stress. But when chronic pain is involved, you often need help – help in the form of relaxation therapy.
The idea behind relaxation therapy is to rid your body of accumulated stress hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) while increasing endorphins (your body’s self-produced pain medicine). One of the best and most pleasurable relaxation therapies practiced today is called “Floating”.
Floating (or floatation therapy) is proven to be a powerful treatment for pain. And when you combine floating with meditation and / or visualization, the results can be dramatic! According to a study done by Health and Clinical Psychology Magazine, when floating combined with visualization, 81 percent of patients saw significantly reduced pain levels .
What does it feel like?
Floating consists of lying in a shallow pool of salt water, within a room that limits external distractions such as light and noise. The water and air temperature are set precisely at 93.5 degrees (the exact surface temperature of your skin). The water is saturated with Epson salt that cradles your body and releases you from gravity’s pull. The feeling is one of absolute calm and lightness – like nothing you have ever experienced.
Simply lie back, relax and practice any form of meditation or visualization you feel comfortable with – and in no time at all, chronic pain subsides. Anxiety and depression lift. And you will sleep more deeply at night. All of which help contribute to a more relaxed, healthy, pain-free body.
 Condensed from Pain: Hope Through Research; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Last updated June 2007
 REST-Assisted Relaxation and Chronic Pain; Health and Clinical Psychology Magazine;
By Thomas H. Fine & John W. Turner, Jr., Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio, USA; 1985
Information for this article came from these additional sources:
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Top Ten Tips for a Healthy Brain; Ultra Prevention; Found September 10, 2007