LiveSmart: Holistic Approaches to Managing Pain and Rejuvenating Self

[This piece was written by Alicia Recore, Ph.D., MBA, director of the Holistic Integrative Therapy Program at St. Peter’s Hospital.]

The experience of pain is unique, influenced by our physical state, thoughts, feelings, and cultural background. Because pain includes emotional and psychological components it may also erode our self-confidence, wear us down, aggravate existing health conditions, and negatively affect relationships at home and at work. Pain can keep us from realizing our best selves.

Educating ourselves about the roles of diet, inflammatory response, emotional state, spiritual purpose, environmental toxicity, exercise, quality of life and stress can divert pain before it has the chance to emerge in our bodies. In other words, don’t wait for something to happen before you take charge. Prevention can be the best medicine.

Replenishing our physical, emotional and mental energies is key. With the latest research on the “plastic” nature of the brain and genes, as well as how our daily decisions influence these systems, our toolbox for managing health is vastly improved.

Presently we have better understandings of how the ways in which we eat, exercise, express our feelings, form and nurture relationships, as well as view our life’s work and purpose, affect neural pathways, genetic predispositions, and ultimately our physical health. Knowing this, we have opportunities to be leading partners in our healthcare. We hold the power of choice. Holistic, non-pharmacological therapies can support our choices by recharging, rebalancing, and restoring our energies.

Clinical research shows pain can be relieved through massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga, muscle relaxation, imagery, music, therapeutic touch, reiki, mind body interventions, prayer, and humor. Many relaxation techniques such as focused breathing and imagery are no-cost, take-anywhere practices which provide physical comfort and a sense of personal control. Currently, a variety of apps are available for download on your smartphone to assist you with meditation activities.

Most holistic methods can be integrated into conventional medical treatments. Benefits can include acute/chronic pain relief, strengthened immunity, reduced stress levels, lessened anxiety, quicker recoveries from surgeries, and increased senses of relaxation.

As we become our own “first responders,” these approaches support the goal of pain-free wellness. Encouraged by habitual relaxation responses, chronic pain cycles are naturally interrupted and endorphins are stimulated. Deposits made in our physical and emotional “banks” ultimately make energy for healing and well-being more readily available.

St. Peter’s Hospital’s Holistic Integrative Therapy Program offers interventions for people of all ages who are hospitalized. Education on holistic therapies is available to outpatients and to the community. Interested? For information, call (518) 525-1174.


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