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Pain Relief without Pills

by Rob Kall, M.Ed. and Rhonda Greenberg, Psy.D.

"The real test of a happy life is to see how much pain and loss and frustration can be endured and absorbed without spoiling the joy of it." Rufus Jones 1863-1948

Go to Futurehealth's Pain Central for more resources and information on pain.

If you’ve been suffering with pain for more than six months, then your pain has become chronic.

You are not alone. More than 17 percent of U.S. patients seen by primary care physicians have persistent pain, according to the World Health Organization. And pain medications are the second most prescribed drugs (after cardiac-renal meds) in ER and physician office visits.

As Andrew Weil has emphasized in his best selling books, chronic illnesses do not respond well to the modern miracles of conventional medicine (while acutre problems like infections, injuries and heart attacks have great medical solutions.)

A recent National Institutes of Health panel concluded that self control and awareness techniques, like biofeedback, relaxation training and cognitive behavioral techniques can help control pain in arthritis, cancer, irritable bowel, headache, low back pain, and other medical syndromes. Numerous studies have shown that these approaches can equal medication in producing relief from pain and the disabilities associated with it.

Chronic pain sufferers are also at risk (30-65%) for developing depression, alcohol or substance abuse and anxiety disorders. We’ve seen that it is common for pain sufferers to shut off their feelings. People start out trying to shut out the pain feelings, but end up shutting off the anger, sadness, frustration associated with pain. They end up shutting off all their feelings as they widen the "net" trying to avoid painful feelings. This creates a situation where they don’t even allow themselves to feel good-- to experience happiness, joy or fun.

Chronic pain adds to the stress in life. We know that arthitics can ease their arthritis pain dramatically by learning to relax muscles near the sites where their arthritis flares. Back pain sufferers may start with a pulled muscle in the low back, but they end up by tensing up other muscles to guard the sore spot, and can end up with headaches or neck pain. Some of the techniques which have been found to bbe helpful incluide therapeutic massage by an experienced therapist, pain management traiing and structured psychotherapy.

You can actually learn to make peace with your pain by learning specially designed imagery and breathing techniques.

The use of biofeedback, relaxation and learning how to build your emotional intelligence entails developing new skills and taking responsibility for your health, rather than handing the responsibility over to a health care provider or depending on medication. Once you learn these skills, they will serve you throughout your life.

According to the Center for the Advancement of Health, "....What seems to work best is a program that combines a "menu" of skills.. six to 12 different coping strategies....

"One area where the research really stands out is the headache literature. Studies of both migraine and muscle contraction headaches show that behavioral methods such as relaxation and biofeedback can be quite effective in helping people control their pain and reducing pain medication intake. Another area is low back pain. More recently, there’s been work on arthritis, sickle cell disease, cancer, and other pain conditions."

The bottom line is YOU can do something about your pain.

Just a note: If there is a question or mind/body optimal living topic you’d like covered, write to us care of Focus on Newtown, P.O. Box 701 Newtown PA 18940

Rhonda E. Greenberg Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and personal coach and

Rob Kall, M.Ed., is a counselor, Biofeedback trainer and personal coach at

The Center for Optimal Living
211 No. Sycamore Street,
Newtown, PA 18940