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Pain Relief

Can we break chronic pain patterns?

Chronic pain is exhausting. Especially when there seems to be no way out. But as the saying goes: when you’re going through hell, keep going.

Because going through may be the only way to get over it.

A few years back, I was at the peak of suffering from chronic Lyme symptoms. One symptom was non-stop itching and the feeling that zillions of creepy-crawlies were devouring the skin all over my body.

I was at the edge of my tolerance, stressed and about to die, I thought, from sheer misery.

And then something happened. The pain subsided, disappeared unexpectedly.

And it was heaven.

But it was temporary.

The relief lasted only about a half hour, but it was enough to show me that it was possible. That was my introduction to the miracle of the mind-body connection and the power of distraction.

Have you ever experienced “pain fountains”? If you suffer with chronic Lyme symptoms, you may know exactly what I mean.

Let’s just say it. The body-mind connection is a singular, miraculous evolutionary development. A god-given gift. Practice being in tune with it increases our awareness and sensitivity.

Pain in our bodies is also experienced in our minds, and vice verse. The mind can assist the body in healing, yet it can also lock us in a loop of pain that feels impossible to escape.

Dealing with serious illness is one way — one hard way — to learn more about this mysterious connection. A doctor friend described these pain fountains as the patterns formed in our neuronal pathways in response to chronic pain. A sort of dance between body and mind.

In my experience, the pain fountain felt like a recording on repeat, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

But what I didn’t realize — until I experienced it out of the blue — was that pain fountains can be, if not stopped, interrupted. And that interruption can reward an exhausted immune system with a temporary reprieve from the agony of chronic pain.

The result can bring about a deep sense of wellbeing, although usually temporary, and often brief and unexpected.

Like a gasp of air in one who thought they were drowning. Like a good night’s sleep to an insomniac. A break in the pain fountain can ignite hope in the heart. And that is what healing feels like.

Is it possible to set the stage for such a break in a chronic pain fountain? I learned the answer when I picked up a paintbrush and proceeded to thoroughly distract myself from my suffering.

But it doesn’t have to be a paintbrush. It could be knitting needles, or a fishing pole, or a model railroad, or a practice of Tai Chi.

I stumbled accidentally into the powerful effect of creating art. What do you love to do? I suggest you do it, no matter how awful you feel. It can’t hurt, and it might just break the pattern and help you find healing.


Art & Acupuncture: 2 ways to get chronic pain relief

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Art & Acupuncture: 2 ways to get chronic pain relief

Art & Acupressure: 2 ways to break chronic pain patterns

Art for pain relief
Chronic Lyme symptoms are such a drag. We can stand only so much stress, I think. Not only does chronic pain just plain hurt, it also exhausts the body and mind to the brink of insanity. Sleep is restorative, but the war between the Lyme bacteria and our immune systems often destroys a good night of sleep. Honestly, when I was super sick, I recall thinking it would not be so terrible if I could just get out of my own body for awhile. Take breaks from the pain. Even prisoners get time off for good behavior. Then quite by accident, I learned that it was entirely possible to engineer those pain breaks. Art became my healing ally.

That is when a chiropractor friend told me about pain fountains, a name she gave the patterns and exquisite neuronal pathways that our bodies and minds can create in response to serious illness. The pain is trauma, both physical and emotional, because our minds get involved and have an opinion about our pain. That body-mind involvement can work for us, or against us. It works against us most powerfully when we aren't aware that we're caught in a loop. Patterns lay down a groove. If nothing disrupts that groove, the pain continues to spill throughout the body's systems like a fountain.

But even our awareness cannot simply make the pain vanish. I wish it were that easy (and perhaps for some, it is). In my case, making the pain go away took the total concentration that I was able to give to a painting project. It was as if I had to use guerilla tactics, sneak up obliquely onto the pain fountain, and re-route its direction. Stop its flow. Redirect the energy into my project and into my breath. What was weird was that I wouldn't even become fully aware that the pain had subsided until I quit painting. And then I knew it had been gone, because it would come flooding back. Like an elevator stopping at a different floor, I would stop, and return to experiencing the pain.

Acupressure for pain relief
For centuries, Asian cultures have recognized that the human body has meridians or pathways of energy, and have applied acupuncture and acupressure to points along those pathways to promote healthy ki (the Japanese term), or chi (the Chinese term). Healthy ki is moving, not stuck. As Lyme is an anti-inflammatory illness, acupressure can help by restoring conditions for the body to reduce inflammation.

Since the Lyme disease bacterial complex attacks the body's vital systems, it makes sense to counter with therapies that support those systems and gives them a fighting chance at balance. These are the lymph, digestive, eliminatory, respiratory, nervous, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

Western medical science has affirmed that these pathways and points in the body really do exist. A professional acupuncturist can teach you where to locate the points on your own body, but it is easy enough to find a good chart or video to help you find them yourself.

Art and acupressure can both be practiced for free. You don't need professional tools or expensive equipment, or a professional artist or acupuncturist to tell you what to do. Find the points that feel good and work on them. Find some paper and paint, or colored pencils, or whatever appeals to you, and take 30 minutes to lose yourself in art. You might also succeed in losing the pain – at least temporarily. Take a pain break. You deserve it. We can all promote our own healing at whatever stage of Lyme we find ourselves.



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