Let’s face it.
By itself, dealing with intense and constant chronic pain is challenging. But, when you add addiction issues to the chronic pain equation – if you are not careful – you can set yourself up for a potential disaster. Certainly, simultaneously dealing with severe chronic pain and addiction complicates recovery for both problems; thus, increasing the need for diligence and consistent self care.
Whether you currently are coping with addiction or are in recovery, chronic pain can seriously knock you off track if you do not address its potentially debilitating effects. So, it’s important to become more aware of the significant role chronic pain plays in your life as you work to deal with, heal and recover from addiction.
We’ll help you do that here. Then, we invite your comments and questions about chronic pain at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate queries personally and promptly.
Why is chronic pain so harmful?
Did you know that according to a recent Institute of Medicine report, more Americans suffer from chronic pain than cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke combined? Did you know that this same report showed that over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and that in addition to the cost in human suffering, chronic pain costs Americans more than half a trillion dollars annually in direct medical expenses and lost productivity?
The statistics show that Americans are hurting!
Here’s a brief round up of the most recent studies.
1. A 2010 Journal of Pain survey reported that chronic pain lasted for a year or more for almost 90% of sufferers.
2. In a 2006 study conducted by the American Pain Foundation it was reported that:
- 86% of participants reported that chronic pain prevented them from getting a good night’s sleep
- 77% reported feeling depressed
- 70% had trouble concentrating due to their pain
3. Likewise, according to a Hart Research Associates survey, 38% of chronic pain sufferers have visited more than one medical practitioner for treatment of their pain.
4. A 2011 report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. concluded that over 1.5 Billion people worldwide suffer from some form of chronic pain.
According to Dr. Seddon Savage of Dartmouth Medical School, it’s important to understand that chronic pain and addiction often share a number of similar clinical features—including sleep and mood disturbances, substance use, deconditioning, functional losses, and high levels of stress—such that the conditions can reinforce each another negatively. So, it’s critical to find ways to effectively manage your chronic pain in order to improve your chances of achieving and sustaining recovery.
What is pain?
The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as ‘‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” According to this definition, pain is a symptom—it’s a way for your body to let you know that damage has occurred—that is produced when inflammation arises or changes to your nervous system occur due to illness or injury. The pain signals are transmitted to your brain, producing a physical sensation that lets your brain know that damage has occurred.
In essence, pain represents an early warning to the brain that something is wrong with the body that needs to be addressed.
What is chronic pain?
According to the Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain is pain which persists after injury such as a strained back or serious infection, for weeks, months or years. The sources of some types of chronic pain can also be unknown. Common chronic pain complaints include:
- neck and low back pain
- arthritis pain
A common element of chronic pain is that it persists! Regardless of how we define chronic pain, the main point is that it is long lasting pain that hurts!
When you do not address your chronic pain, it can hurt you physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. If we live long enough, most likely at some point in our lives we will experience chronic pain from a sports injury, a strain or sprain from lifting a heavy item incorrectly or from years of incorrect posture due to a sedentary lifestyle. Left unattended to, chronic pain can take a toll on your physical, mental and emotional well-being, and negatively impact the quality of your life.
What are the major chronic pain conditions?
According to a 2006 comprehensive National Institute of Health Statistics survey, the following were the most common chronic pain conditions:
- low back pain
- severe headache or migraine pain
- neck pain
- facial ache or pain
It’s important to note that this same survey concluded that adults with low back pain tended to be in worse mental and physical health than those without low back pain. Also, low back pain sufferers were 3 times more likely to be in poor health and more than 4 times more likely to experience serious psychological distress compared to people without low back pain. So, in terms of addiction, by relieving or addressing low back pain, you may increase the odds in your favor of preventing an addiction triggering event or relapse.
What are the debilitating aspects of chronic pain?
The long list of negative effects of living with chronic pain, includes:
- decreased quality of life
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- diminished overall enjoyment of life
- diminished productivity
- loss of flexibility
- loss of mobility
- loss of motivation or drive
- more difficult to control anger or rage
- significantly increased stress levels
- significantly increased anxiety levels
- increased moodiness
- increased work days lost calling in sick
- increased risk of depression
- increased risk for feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- increased cravings for temporary relief
- increased risk of relapse
Dissolving chronic pain with Open Focus™
Most likely you already know that standard approaches to dealing with chronic pain involve taking pain meds such as Buprenorphine, Oxycodone, OxyContin or Percocet. And, you may even be familiar with alternative chronic pain relief methods such as Acupuncture, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Hypnosis, Massage, MBSR, Neurofeedback or Physical Therapy. But you may not know that for many years, the Open Focus™ technique has helped countless individuals successfully lessen or relieve their chronic pain.
Open Focus™ is an incredibly effective pain and stress management technique which dissolves chronic pain and stress by shifting your focus of attention. By paying attention to how you’re paying attention, Open Focus™ increases your awareness of your pain in an objective fashion. Doing so allows you to fully immerse yourself into your pain—neither resisting nor rejecting your pain—such that your pain begins to dissolve.
Created over 40 years ago by Dr. Les Fehmi of the Princeton Biofeedback Centre, Open Focus™ gives you the same type of elevated pain and stress relief that the highest levels of biofeedback and neurofeedback provide—without using any equipment! Dr. Fehmi scopes out these pain and stress relieving effects in his two best-selling books Dissolving Pain and Open Focus Brain. Both books provide readers with exercises that dissolve chronic pain and stress and the included free CD is worth the cost of the book alone! Of course, when you are wrestling with addiction or seeking to sustain recovery, lessening your chronic pain can go a long way towards helping you maintain your resolve thereby lowering chances for relapse.
When you are in an Open Focus state, your attention becomes more flexible, shifting you out of a “normal” narrow focused attentional style into one that’s wider and more global. Although being in a narrow focused attentional style is helpful for goal attainment, remaining and maintaining a narrow focus for too long, often results in unnecessary pain and stress. When you stay focused upon your chronic pain—how it hurts or how much it is intensifying—you can easily begin to diminish your chronic pain by learning and using Open Focus.
The good news is that when you begin using Open Focus to reduce your pain, you’ll simultaneously lessen the effects of any stress, anxiety or grief you may be dealing with. This can be a wonderful opportunity for you especially when you are wrestling with the combination of chronic pain and addiction. The really good news is that as Addictionblog.org founder Lee Weber wrote in a previous blog post, when you are looking for relief, doing Open Focus is “10 times easier than meditation.”
Pain relieving power of Open Focus™
The best way to grasp the pain relieving power of Open Focus is to experience it. After all, when you are in pain and hurting, you can sometimes feel that you’ll do almost anything to get relief, particularly if your pain is INTENSE. If you’ve ever experienced unbearable pain, then you know what I mean.
When your pain is at its worse, you may not be able to eat or sleep, and as the chronic pain and substance abuse research literature demonstrates repeatedly, whenever we become seriously sleep deprived, at a minimum, we are setting ourselves up for burnout or worse. In terms of addiction, sleep deprivation and burnout can become automatic triggers for relapse and multiple addictive behaviors, so it’s smart to get a handle on your chronic pain as soon as possible.
Sample Open Focus™ pain exercise
In general, Open Focus exercises are made up of guided questions that help you change the way you pay attention so that your pain is lessened. According to Dr. Carole Chrvala of NYU Langone Medical Center Hospital, the source of pain is in the brain. Although to some this may seem like a controversial finding, fMRI scans and other forms of neuroimaging confirm Dr. Chrvala’s view. Many “phantom limb” studies have drawn the same conclusion. Dr. Fehmi’s years of clinical research bolsters this perspective. He says that when we change the way we pay attention, doing so, can profoundly modify the way we experience the world.
Of course, this includes whether and how we recognize our own pain. Open Focus uses the concept of space to break up habitual rigidity in our attention processes. This increases brain plasticity while simultaneously reducing our chronic pain.
Want to know exactly how it works? The following exercises are excerpted from Dissolving Pain, Head and Hands Exercise, pp. 41-48. Please allow approximately 15 seconds between questions as you read them to yourself internally Or, have someone else read out loud and pause for 15 seconds in between questions.
– “Can you imagine letting your mind and body naturally and effortlessly respond to the following questions about your ability to imagine certain experiences?”
– “Can you imagine not giving any particular effort to listening to the questions or to achieving any of the associated images or experiences?”
– “Can you imagine that your ideal response is whatever spontaneously happens to your imagery or experience when a particular question is asked?”
– “Can you imagine the distance between your eyes?”
– “Is it possible for you to imagine the space inside your nose as you inhale and exhale naturally?”
– “Can you imagine your breath flowing behind your eyes as you inhale naturally?”
– “Can you imagine the distance between the space inside your nose and your eyes?”
– “Can you imagine the space inside your throat as you inhale naturally?”
– “Can you imagine the space inside of your mouth and cheeks?”
– “Is it possible for you to imagine the surface of your tongue?”
– “Can you imagine the volume of your lips?”
– “Can you imagine the space inside your ears?”
– “Can you imagine the distance between the tip of your chin and the space inside your ears?”
– “Can you imagine the distance between your temples?”
– “Is it possible for you to imagine the space between your fingers?”
– “Is it possible for you to imagine that as you inhale naturally your breath fills your entire head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers, and that as you exhale and as your breath leaves your body it leaves this entire region filled with space?”
– “At the same time that you’re aware of the space inside this entire region, is it possible for you also to imagine the space around these regions, the space between your fingers; the space between your arms, shoulders, neck and head?”
– “Can you imagine that as you continue to practice your experience will become more vivid and more effortless?”
– “Can you imagine practicing this exercise at least twice daily?”
Want to learn more?
If you’d like to learn more about Open Focus and how you can experience the benefits of having your chronic pain reduced, diminished or dissolved, consider contacting me by email at Dr.Bob@StressFreeNow[DOT]info. I have been a certified Open Focus Trainer for over 10 years, achieving excellent stress, anxiety and chronic pain reduction results for clients. Feel free to contact me with your questions or to schedule a wellness coaching session.
About the Author—
Dr. Bob, the Stress Relief Doctor, is an Executive Stress Management Wellness Coach who helps individuals and groups get ahead of the stress curve by giving them the tools they need to address and dissolve their habitual stress, anxiety, grief and chronic pain. Dr. Bob is an author, keynote speaker, and the co-host of the popular StressFreeNow podcast series. He has published 5 books and over 60 articles dealing with ways to reduce chronic pain, anxiety, grief and stress regardless of the cause. His passionate goal is synthesizing and translating the findings of scholarly studies in nitric oxide and endogenous morphine research into ordinary language to help the general public improve their healthy well being. Dr. Bob helps you move forward with your life by reducing your stress, anxiety, grief and chronic pain. You can learn more about how Dr. Bob’s gentle approach helps improve the quality of your life by visiting his Coaching page or emailing him directly at Dr.Bob@StressFreeNow[DOT]info.