Studies show that up to 15 to 20 percent of the population has suffered from chronic pain of some kind. Chronic pain can be defined as persistent pain that lasts longer than six months. Those who experience chronic pain often become more withdrawn, less sociable, and are at greater risk for depression. As a
former sufferer of chronic pain – the result of herniated discs in my back – I can hardly write about this topic without feeling as though I’m inviting the anger of the fates.
Chronic pain is no joke. It severely impacts one’s quality of life. It pushes otherwise healthy and functional people to depths hitherto unknown. In my own case, I grew helpless and frustrated. I had difficulty caring for myself, let alone my children. I was fortunate in that my own pain was correctable with surgery, but if I’m being honest here, it also laid the groundwork for a real phobia and dread of pain of any kind. It left a deep scar within me.
For those whose chronic pain has no surgical solution, patiently supporting their pain management program is a gift beyond compare. Studies show that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an effective tool in managing chronic pain. Founded by Jon Kabat Zinn, and now practiced widely, MBSR grew out of specific efforts to manage chronic pain.
Mindfulness teaches people to live in zones of less judgment and greater acceptance. It teaches those who practice to focus on the present moment, and to be mindful while acknowledging the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that arise within.
The method’s effectiveness will depend upon the individual and the type of pain they live with, but according to Psychology Today, the effects of MBSR are measurable and significant:
“The seminal study establishing a stronger causal link between mindfulness and chronic pain experience and disability was published by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1985. He implemented his newly developed mindfulness programme for 90 chronic pain patients. Statistically significant reductions were observed in measures of pain intensity, negative body image, pain interference, mood disturbance, and psychological symptomatology, including anxiety and depression. Pain-related drug utilization decreased and activity levels and feelings of self-esteem increased. A comparison group of pain patients did not show significant improvement on these measures after traditional treatment protocols."
Those wishing to encourage family or friends with chronic pain to try mindfulness could do several things. They could locate a local yoga studio with an experienced mindfulness teacher and set up a private lesson. Similarly, buying yoga gear, props, and accessories and presenting them as a gift is an incredibly loving gesture.
Remember that chronic pain can push people to try things they may not seem completely suited to under more “normal" circumstances. So even if the recipient of your gift is initially reluctant, their desperation for relief may make them willing to seek alternative solutions. After all, there’s no harm in trying.
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