Chronic pain is a wide-spread issue. Addressing pain management issues are complex and often ongoing and many times fraught with continued patient discomfort and dissatisfaction. For example, Vicodin is the #1 most prescribed medication in our country, but this doesn't do anything to treat or help heal the reasons for one's pain. So the more therapies available to treat chronic pain, the better!
Chronic pain is defined as pain experienced three months after the original injury is considered healed. Here are the top therapies for chronic pain (both in terms of amount accessed and evidence-based effectiveness):
* Anodyne pharmaceuticals (painkillers): Vicodin, Oxycontin, muscle relaxers, etc.
* Biofeedback: by observing a bodily rhythm or signaling via computer imaging, the patient impacts their experience. A simple type of this is breathing patterns adjusted by looking at a monitor displaying one's blood pressure.
* Meditation: Mindfulness meditation has in particular been shown to decrease one's perception of pain.
* Hypnosis: Many methods and styles are available to change one's psychological responses.
* Tai chi: Chinese meditative energy movement styles which are often found to help with many chronic disease concerns (such as its effect on patients living with heart failure) .
* Awareness, concentration and expectation: patients perceived less pain if told the pain would end soon, were concentrating on a mental task or while concentrating on a picture of a loved one.
There are many therapies to address the acute pain one feels after a trauma or surgery. And they work quite well to dull your brain's perception of that pain. But when dealing with chronic, debilitating pain lasting months or years and affecting one's quality of life, there just isn't one "magic bullet" for everyone. The best approach will most likely comprise one or more of the above treatment options, while incorporating one or more healthcare practitioners who deal with pain management and find efficacy in dealing with underlying causes (a few examples might be massage therapy, Chiropractic care, acupuncture, Naturopathy, physical therapy or orthopedics).
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Parks and beaches are more relaxing settings than highways and airports.
Research looking at Tai chi versus heart failure-related education in recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (LA Times summary article here). When looking at lowering depression, increasing vigor, mood, quality of life and daily activities, who came out ahead?
Tai chi, on all counts!
This form of movement is part exercise, part meditation and part stress reducer. While practicing tai chi, one is moving, balancing and culminating the energy within and beyond the practitioner.
The control group for the tai chi research, education on heart failure, actually caused increased levels of depression and decreased levels of vigor by the participants.
So if you're looking to add a movement/meditative practice to your schedule, consider looking into local tai chi classes. If you're looking to maximize the tai chi ambiance, Portland's downtown chinese garden (recently renamed Lan Su) has weekly group tai chi practice, free with admission (information here).
Get that chi flowing, your body will thank you!
Comments? Questions? I'd love to hear it!