Back and Neck Pain

Summarizing Healthy Ways to Life with Chronic Pain, Part XIII

Author| Barry Kerzin, MD

From the Dalai Lama's personal physician

TS Eliot wrote in his Four Quartets, “A condition of complete

Simplicity/costing not less than everything” [17]. Our full attention is needed to reduce our excesses and chaotic emotions in order to live more simply and fully. This brings more reserve and hence resilience.

Chronic pain is a complex situation influenced by sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Working at all these levels is required to make real positive change in our life of chronic pain.

Meditation works on the cognitive and emotional dimensions of chronic pain. It plays an essential role in training our minds to be present and calm. Being present focuses our mind on the immediate sensation, without exaggeration by thoughts of fear and gloom. Meditation trains the mind like we train our bodies for sports. Training requires regularity; thus we must meditate daily. This can become a new healthy habit. The calmness that we cultivate helps us not to overreact. This in itself is wonderful progress. Learning to breathe correctly, including spending more time slowly exhaling, calms the energies in the body. There are other breathing techniques called pranayama that can further smooth out the energies of the body, such as the 9-round breathing technique.

Learning to change our destructive emotions like anger, jealousy, and pride means working on the emotional dimension of chronic pain.

It takes courage to face our negativity and not run away from it.

Facing our stuff free of guilt in a matter-of-fact practical way gives us the courage to change. We all make mistakes. To be human is to err said Shakespeare. And to be human is to be glorious. But this also means not to suppress anger or negative emotions. This only worsens the problem since it will later explode. Yoga works on all levels of chronic pain: the sensory, emotional, and conceptual levels. It is a wonderful way to balance the body and eventually the mind. Stretching releases many pent up emotions giving us more relaxation. Regularity is needed to obtain the full benefit. Qigong is another approach working on all three dimensions of chronic pain. The stillness that is cultivated helps to balance the inner energies as well as the mind. Living a healthy life style has many benefits beyond living with chronic pain. It cultivates resilience and allows us the possibility of wellness.

17. Eliot, T. S. (1943). Four quartets, p. 39. New York:Harcourt Brace.