Instead of grabbing Tylenol the next time a headache strikes, consider "talking" to your pain or "confronting" it in a "loving way," suggests Richard Shane, Ph.D., psychotherapist and director of the Center for Personal Development in Boulder, Colo. "Pain is a Combination of the actual sensation and your reaction to it," he explains. Other experts agree that by changing the way you think about pain and adopting relaxing habits, you can make chronic pain much more manageable. This may seem far-fetched, but it's worth trying.
A study done by the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Pain Management Center in Brookline, Mass., gives credence to this idea. For over 10 weeks, researchers taught relaxation and breathing skills, simple yoga stretches, and nutritional guidelines to 109 chronic-pain patients. The results? The participants' average number of doctor visits decreased by almost 50 percent between the year before treatment and the two years after the program ended.
Ready to give the notion a try? Here are three self-care programs:
To find out what happens when you "embrace your pain," Dr. Shane's Beyond Pain (Center for Personal Development, 1997) is available on video or audio tape. With soft piano music playing in the background, Shane talks you through simple breathing and relaxation exercises and teaches you how to imagine "inner hands" caressing or massaging away the pain. (To order, call 888-377-4263.)
Shinzen Young, a meditation teacher with Buddhist training, put together his own set of audio tapes called Break Through Pain (Sounds True, 1995). These tapes, like Shane's, include relaxation and breathing exercises, but they also offer Young's instruction through two meditation sessions. "Establish a circulation of awareness" is the type of advice he dispenses. I can't attest to these tapes' pain-blocking abilities, but they certainly made me feel relaxed.
- To try the stress reduction and relaxation course offered by the University of Massachusetts Medical Center's Stress Reduction Clinic, check out the book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1990) by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D [ 1 ] Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
ISBN-13: 9780385298971 [ 2 ] See also Mindfulness-based stress reduction . In clear language he lays out meditation advice, step-by-step breathing exercises, and other pain-busting techniques. --E.W.