These 4 mind-body techniques can relieve chronic pain without medication.
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If you experience chronic pain—migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia, lower back pain, TMJ—you know how it can interfere with even the most mundane daily tasks, such as showering, shopping or simply sitting still.
And, like the millions of Americans battling recurring pain, you may have turned to over-the-counter or prescription analgesics—and faced side effects such as dry mouth, stomach upset and the risk of dependence and addiction. But there’s another way—a drug-free path that relieves pain and requires only that your mind and body work together to help you take back your life.
Promising research suggests we have more control over our perception of pain than we might otherwise think. In a groundbreaking study, subjects watched their own fMRI brain scans and experienced first-hand how learning to control specific brain centers reduced their pain. “It’s like turning down the amplifier on a stereo,” says Sean Mackey, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of pain medicine at Stanford University. “The input is the same, but your experience of pain is turned down.”
Ronald Glick, M.D., medical director at
the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, agrees. “Pain is part of our fight-or-flight response, and mind-body approaches like paced breathing—which is commonly
used as an alternative to pain meds during childbirth—slow down the heart, lower blood pressure and relax the response to pain.”
Leslie Davenport, M.S., M.F.T., an integrative psychotherapist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, urges
pain sufferers to adopt relaxing mind-body techniques. “You have nothing to lose but your pain,” she says.
Here, our experts share four cutting-edge techniques for managing chronic pain that can be used in lieu of medication, or—if your doctor recommends it—in conjunction with a traditional medical approach.