The psychology of pain (and how acupuncture can help)
In my last blog I talked about the physical and mental impact pain can have on people’s lives and I wanted to expand here on how acupuncture deals not just with the practical limitations of the discomfort some people live with, but also with the psychological effects.
Chronic pain is one of the most emotionally destructive experiences anyone can go through. It eats away at positivity, resolve and resilience and can leave people unable to motivate themselves to look much beyond the next dose of painkillers.
There’s now plenty of evidence to show the scientific link between pain and depression and neuroplasticity has become widely recognised as a big factor in effective healing.
But even if we ignore the science, I’ve been around long enough now to have met a great many patients whose pain has driven them beyond the point of complete despair. Their stories are always different, but the legacy pain leaves rarely changes: it’s corrosive, spiteful and capable of wreaking wholesale personality change – but never in a good way.
Part of the problem is that the cause of chronic pain is often invisible. While a cast on someone’s arm or leg is a pretty obvious clue that the person has suffered an injury that is likely to have hurt, persistent, chronic discomfort can often linger long after the injury that caused it has healed. And of course, sometimes the original injury never heals.
Sport a bandage or a cast or walk with the aid of crutches or a stick, and sympathy will never be very far away.
Spend your life in agony with back pain that never, ever lets up and people will probably make all the right soothing noises, but true understanding and empathy is often missing.
Without the support of others, the journey to wellness can be like a long, dark tunnel into which no light shines.
If my work as an acupuncturist has taught me anything, it’s that the human psyche is in many ways remarkable. It’s able to rationalise the worst kind of pain where there’s a promise of release.
But where the prospect of permanent remission – or even temporary respite – is bleak, the mind finds it incredibly difficult to generate the kind of positivity necessary to cope physically and mentally with pain.
When we get hurt or we fall ill, a big part of our recovery is an exercise in staying positive – what we often hear described as a ‘positive mental attitude’. It’s no coincidence that when we tackle illness and injury with a sense of purpose, we get better faster.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that when feel sorry for ourselves it takes longer for us to heal.
Clinical treatment, by its nature, only ever treats symptoms or consequences. Broken a leg? Here’s a cast. Throat infection? Take some antibiotics. Back pain? Have some anti-inflammatories. Though health professionals do keep half an eye out for mental health issues in patients with chronic conditions, treatment is rarely – if ever – holistic.
More than that, I’ve seen reports over the last couple of years that suggest over-prescription of drugs to combat pain could lead to side-effects that actually worsen the quality of life for those people taking them.
That’s why acupuncture is such an amazing option for people who suffer with persistent discomfort or pain that compromises their quality of life and has a negative effect on mental health, because it not only rebalances the body’s energy to deal with the physical causes and effects of pain – either reducing or eradicating the need for prescription medication in the process – but in the process also helps to preserve positivity.
I honestly believe there are very few people who really have no option but to live with ongoing pain.
Many people tolerate pain unnecessarily and acupuncture – which involves the painless insertion of very fine needles into the skin to access key energy points – is a treatment option that has been shown over hundreds of years to be highly effective in the treatment and management of conditions that typically leave people in ongoing discomfort.
From back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain and joint pain, to frequent headaches, migraine and uncomfortable skin conditions, acupuncture is now recognised by clinical healthcare professionals as an effective complementary treatment that, together with traditional medical treatment, can have a significant positive impact on both physical and mental health.
So, if you’re in pain, feel like your mental health is at risk and are looking for an alternative solution, what are you waiting for? Give us a call and let us see how we can help!
If you’d like to learn more about what we do, please have a look through our website. And if you know someone who’s suffering with pain and might be interested in putting acupuncture to the test, please share this article with them and encourage them to get in touch for a confidential chat!