I recently attended the American Academy of Pain Management's Integrative Medicine Conference where I learned about many causes, and many ways to manage pain. Here are the basics of pain, and a simple way to manage it.
It may be interesting to know that pain and pleasure share many of the same pathways in the brain. They originate in the same area (nucleus accumbens) and they both stimulate areas involved in reward. These areas are responding to sensory input from the body (pain, etc), as well as the emotional reactions and thoughts generated by the experience. These responses are sent back to the nucleus accumbens, and a person either feels pleasure and happiness or pain and misery. The responses are communicated via chemicals that transmit signals from one neuron to the next, called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters that are released during a pleasurable activity directly counteract pain neurotransmitters, and vice versa. Whichever neurotransmitter dominates determines the experience.
Therefore, pain and pleasure are not truly feelings, but rather values placed on sensations mingled with emotions and thoughts. They are variable states. At times, pain can obliterate pleasure. Still, we are capable of creating pleasure, and it is worthwhile to do so.
The simplest way to pursue pleasure is to change the stimulus from the body to the brain by finding experiences that are both soothing and stimulating. Listening to music, tasting something flavorful, feeling a pleasing texture, smelling your favorite scent, laughing or making someone else laugh, practicing gratitude, or trying something new are all excellent ways to rewire your brain to pursue pleasure.
Acupuncture and herbs can also shift your body into a less painful and stressed state to a more relaxed and pleasant one. It accomplishes this by releasing the pleasure neurotransmitters as well as natural pain killers. This promotes muscle relaxation, soothes the emotions, and quiets internal chatter.
(Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net)
Thoughts and practical tips to protect your health based in the wisdom of Chinese medicine.
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