Many of us are afflicted with chronic pain. Last year, a poll by the American Osteopathic Association found that nearly 70% of Americans say they or someone they care for experienced pain in the previous month. 48% of respondents do not believe that proper treatment can ease chronic pain; 41% believe pain is simply a part of aging; while 34% believe that the side effects of pain medications are worse than the pain itself.
But researchers have found pain reducers that are not opiates or pharmaceuticals. The website “Cracked” has an article on 6 things other than drugs which can reduce pain. Beginning with the least, the six are:
#6. Money: An experiment in China found that just touching money makes us feel better. Those subjects in the experiment who had just handled a stack of bills before plunging their hands into very hot water for a short period of time, showed a higher pain threshold than those who had just handled blank paper. Even though the first group didn’t think they would get to keep the money, simply being in physical contact with it made them feel less pain.
#5. Eating: We all have comfort foods that we turn to when we are stressed, but eating also helps in alleviating pain — at least for a while. Come to think of it, that may explain the explosion of obesity in our society of plenty where even those our government defines as “poor” are over weight.
#4. Music: Listening to your favorite music enables you to tolerate up to twice your normal threshold of pain. A study of people with chronic pain and those in long-term hospital stays found that listening to their favorite music dramatically decreased the pain they were feeling.
#3. Imagination: According to a study on stomach pains, getting a child to imagine that s/he is floating on a cloud is a more effective pain reliever than prescription drugs.
#2. Touch: One study found that touching our own wounds helps our bodies deal with pain as it allows our brains to better “map out” the part of our body that’s hurting. The more information the brain gets about the pain’s location, the better it can process and effectively deal with the pain.
And now the most powerful, Number One non-drug pain-reducer….
#1. Religious Faith
Researchers found that those who are religious handle pain better. In the study, devout Catholics are better able to withstand electrical shocks than atheists or agnostics. Participants of all beliefs were told to look at two different paintings while their hands were being shot up with electricity. Those who were Catholic reported less pain when looking at a painting of the Virgin Mary as opposed to a painting of some woman by Leonardo da Vinci. Atheists and agnostics did not feel any pain relief no matter what painting they looked at. Test subjects who were religious showed increased brain activity, while non-religious subjects had no increased brain activity.
My best friend and this blog’s co-founder, Joan, certainly can attest to the power of faith.
She has chronic excruciating pain from degenerative disk disease, fibromyalgia, and severe osteoarthritis. She describes her pain as “like someone jabbing a knife into my spine.” Despite that, she is cheerful and lives an active full life as a homemaker, having retired from being an administrative law judge. She cooks and cares for her husband, 7 cats, 1 parrot, and a turtle. She is active in her parish, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, and regularly cooks meals for tens of people. She tells me she is able to do all that because of her great love for the Triune God, and offers her pains as redemptive suffering to Christ.
At times when her pain is particularly bad, Joan finds comfort by gazing at the picture of the Divine Mercy which I had given her when she was hospitalized for total-knee replacement surgery 5 years ago.
As serendipity has it, today is Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. St. Faustina was assured by Jesus that all who receive of the Holy Sacraments today will have full remission of their sins and punishments.
“[T]hough your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” -Isaiah 1:18