Relieve back pain: The mind and body relationship
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of 2sharemyjoy.com
I am excited to have Mr. Back from misterback.com sharing about the mind and body relationship with us today. He has a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, he is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and is currently studying the PhD Physical Therapy program.
His main focus has been on back-related issues and he loves to share his strong passion for how the human body works! So be sure to take a look as his page.
The mind and body relationship (back pain relief)
When it is the mind that causes pain, it is the mind that must combat it. Being in the present moment and being willing to explore with curiosity and understanding will ease pain in the back, neck, shoulder, and many other ailments.
Less well-known causes of back pain are the effects of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and what the correlation is between those causes and the pain. When taking into consideration these more subjective qualities, science shifts from the definitive to the abstract.
The most common area of generalized pain is the back; from there, the pain can radiate upward toward the neck and shoulder regions. Of course, one cannot completely ignore other factors to prevent back pain with exercise and one should not exclude the other. The most important thing is to find a cause for the pain.
We can only begin to learn how the mind can help with pain in general, and back pain more specifically.
Here are the questions that we will attempt to unpack:
- What is “the mind”?
- Is “the mind” different than the brain?
- What is pain?
- What role does the brain play in the perception of pain?
- What role does the mind play in the perception of pain?
- Can the effect of the mind on pain be scientifically studied?
Though these questions may seem a bit unclear and abstract, the answer to each will lay the groundwork for a higher and more acceptable understanding of the mind-body relationship.
The mind can cause both feelings of happiness AND dis-ease (notice: we do not speak of disease as in sickness) but it is also a muscle of sorts that must be exercised and trained to increase happiness and ease.
Our thoughts create our version of reality; one person may not interpret the same situation exactly like another. These thoughts play a role in shaping our emotions and based on how we act, or react, in any number of ways.
Pain occurs when the mind and body are out of balance…
When the thoughts and feelings of the mind dictate how the body feels, and to some degree what the body does, pain occurs when the mind and body are out of balance. It is the body’s way of telling the mind that something needs attention and that awareness needs to be brought to the suffering itself as well as its cause.
An alternative reason the mind can cause pain is to distract. As a defense mechanism, the body may signal a source of pain to keep one’s mind away from difficult thoughts, feelings, or emotions. Even more reason to be aware of one’s body.
Depression and stress are both known to cause physical pain, and for many this pain can appear in the back, neck, and shoulders. It may be difficult to pinpoint the exact area of the pain; back, neck, and shoulder ailments like these tend to be generalized – or encompass the entire back. It’s not unusual to lack awareness of the cause of a depression or anxiety attack, in these situations back pain may be the result of unattended emotions or even triggers we didn’t know about.
The first, and most important, thing is that during any work with the mind always remember to do so objectively and with an open curiosity. It does one no good to judge one’s thoughts and feelings, this will only add to the suffering. Some good questions to ask yourself are:
- When did the pain begin?
- Were there other stressors or triggers occurring in your life when the pain began?
How Does One Do This?
One of the most basic practices is focusing on the breath.
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable, but erect, position (I usually choose to sit cross-legged on the floor with my hands folded in my lap). This may be done with the eyes opened or closed although I prefer closed to decrease the distraction of external stimuli.
- Once comfortable, take a deep breath in through your nose; as you inhale notice how the air feels as it fills your nostrils – is it hot or cold?
- Now follow the breath as it fills your airway and down into your lungs. Do you notice a feeling of energy or space as your body receives all that oxygen?
- As you exhale contemplate the breath in reverse. If, at any time during this short practice, your mind wanders – and it will – just notice that but don’t follow any one thought right now. Rest assured all those fleeting thoughts, worries, and to-dos will still be there when you are done.
When you have done this maybe three to five times, slowly open your eyes – assuming they were closed – and assess how your body feels, what is going through your mind? Practicing this short exercise will not only lead to better posture (less back pain), but it will also lead to a sense of calm and understanding of self that will help with back pain in just the first sitting.
When it is the mind that causes pain, it is the mind that must combat it.
How can the mind help with back pain? If you’re still not sure…what do you have to lose by trying? At the very least you’ll feel energized by all the oxygen your blood is getting and sending around your body!
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