Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mentally Managing Your Chronic Lower Back Pain

British Airways 747-136 G-AWNF
Flying can be tough on the back.  (Photo credit: caribb)
This post courtesy of mispinecenter.com

One of the most common health plaguing Americans today is living with chronic lower back pain, and for frequent travelers cramped into uncomfortable spaces, it can be as taxing on your mind as your body. In many cases there is no single treatment for this problem and most people don’t want to be constantly taking pain killers, muscle relaxers and visiting chiropractors to live with the pain that never seems to cease. Today we will be looking at an alternative to the traditional route of treating back pain, using your mind itself to overcome the pain.

First off, a little background information for those who may not know much about lower back pain. Lower Back Pain is not usually attributed to one single issue but the combination of multiple factors such as: lack of exercise / muscle strength, improper posture, being overweight, smoking, and many more. All of these things can increase the likelihood that you will suffer from lower back pain.

One thing anyone dealing  with lower back pain needs to be aware of is that just as nerves in our body shoot signals up to our brain to tell it “Ow this hurts!”, there are also signals being sent down from your brain itself that actually regulate how sensitive areas of your body are, like your lower back, and determine how we feel much pain we receive in those areas even when the actual amount may not be high, in fact, most chronic pain is more attributable to sensitization of the nervous system than actual problems with the area in pain.

So what can someone do who has tried everything they could think of? Below are some helpful tips to conquer your back pain one day at a time in an alternative fashion.

•    The most important thing to learn for mentally managing back pain is to how to truly relax, take classes, watch YouTube videos or read articles like this one on the subject. The standard process usually follows a few simple steps. (1) Put yourself in a reclined position and dim the lighting. (2) Start taking slow deep breathes using your chest to pull breath into your stomach. (3) Concentrate on a spot just above your naval, how it rises and falls with each breath.

•    After feeling yourself slip into a deeper relaxation, try a few imagery control techniques. These include; Altered Focus, Dissociation, Sensory Splitting, progression/regression and Mental Anesthesia

Other helpful tips to try:
•    Mood, anxiety and stress all profoundly affect how we feel pain, you may have noticed this correlation already, when you are enjoying yourself, worry free, away from a stressful environment you are less likely to even notice the pain that seems so excruciating at other times, when you find yourself getting stressed or upset, walk away from the situation and focus on relaxing, your back will thank you.

•    Focusing on the pain and worrying it will never end, also known as catastrophizing instead of thinking about a time when you had a good back day with little to no pain, or a time when you won’t feel the pain anymore, this is along the lines of regression/progression thinking we mentioned earlier.

•    Counting, much like the other practices on here, the root idea is to take your mind off of the pain and concentrate on something else often times this alone can help tremendously.

•    Join a support group! You would be surprised how many other people out there deal with the same problems as you and sometimes all you need is the understanding, empathy and input of others dealing with your problems to help make you feel better

•    Boost your endorphins- While not only improving your mood, endorphins also block pain signals, a great way to do this is by exercising more, especially cardio exercises and stretching.

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