It is okay to feel occasional aches and pains. In fact, sudden pain is your nervous system’s signal to alert you about a possible injury. However, chronic pain is far different and serious from such pain. Even after an injury heals, your body may continue to send pain signals to your brain due to chronic pain. This can last several weeks to years, making it tough to get through daily tasks.
The pain (defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks) may feel sharp or dull, causing a burning or aching sensation. It may be coming and going without any apparent reason and can occur in nearly any part of your body. More than 1.5 billion people around the world have chronic pain. Sadly, not many of them understand and recognize it as a serious problem.
This blog is an attempt to educate you about chronic pain so that whenever you encounter it you are better informed to seek treatment or fix it (if mild) using alternative strategies.
Chronic Pain is a multidimensional condition
The effect of the cause appears as pain in our body. The cause could vary from person to person and could be somatic or psychosomatic. Studies suggest that conditions that become chronic have psychosomatic factors and poor lifestyle choices at their root. However, chronic pain presents with many facets, and does not fit a simple model.
Sometimes, it can begin without any obvious cause. But for many people, it starts after injuries or surgeries, back problems, migraines, Arthritis, nerve damage, infections and Fibromyalgia (a condition in which people feel muscle pain throughout their body). Tension component of the muscles, heavy patterns of breathing, low energy levels and negative mind-set only exacerbate the distress.
Is Pharmacological Treatment enough?
Treating chronic pain and treating the underlying condition are two separate things. For example, opioid medication might relieve the pain but the cause of pain is still there. If the underlying condition is identified or treated then not only can the underlying cause go away but it will take the pain too along with it, for good.
All of us who are thinking about the management of chronic pain are aware that, alongside using pharmaceuticals, we need other strategies. Although the most common non-pharmaceutical treatments sought by people have been herbal and dietary supplements, current findings suggest that some of the practices that seem to offer the best results include alternative treatments like Physical Therapy, Yoga, mindfulness and meditation.
The term “alternative therapies” is increasingly being replaced with “integrative health” and holistic therapies being used in conjunction with medical treatment to treat a person completely rather than a disease.
Yoga and Chronic Pain
Yoga seems to alleviate pain not so much by changing the physical sensation of pain, but by altering people’s reactions to the sensation. Restorative yoga is the term commonly used to denote the therapeutic style of Yoga (vis-a-vis fitness styles such as power yoga). It works at many levels – mind, body, emotions and intellect. Yoga offers options at each level to restore the human system back to health.
It helps us accept the pain, face it, bear it and creates space for us to deal with it. It triggers the inner healing mechanisms to help remove the root cause of the pain. To begin with, it may not be the physical sensation that diminishes but our response to it that helps us to heal it. With time, that helps alleviate or remove the pain itself.
Yoga, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is defined as an eight-fold path – Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These, when translated in layman’s terms, are – personal disciplines, interpersonal duties, postures, breathing techniques, sense withdrawal, focus, meditative absorption and a state of meditative consciousness. Clearly the better known of the aspects, Asanas is merely one part of the eight, defined in Yoga.
This Blog is contributed by Dr. Ruchi Phool. Ruchi holds a diploma in Yoga Vidya, a Diploma in Naturopathy and a Laughter Yoga Teacher Certification. Her skills include Hatha Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Laughter Yoga, Diet & Nutrition, Shuddhi Prakriyas (Cleaning of Mind, Body, Psyche), Pranayama and various Mindfulness, Meditation & Relaxation techniques.