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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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