How to Make Yourself Immune to Pain | David Goggins on Impact Theory
6 Surprising Ways You're Causing Yourself Pain
When you're in pain, it's difficult to focus on anything else. And Mother Nature designed it that way. "Pain is like the oil light on your car's dashboard—it signals that your body needs attention," says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of . "Most doctors prescribe medicines to mask the pain. A better solution is to treat the problem."
Whether you have chronic pain—the kind that lasts for at least 6 months—or acute pain from an injury, pain relievers aren't your only alternative to toughing it out. Here are six surprising pain triggers and how to fix them. (is the first-ever plan that tackles the root cause of virtually every major ailment and health condition; get your copy today!)
Pain Trigger #1: Anger
Holding in anger can be a pain in your back—literally. In one study, people with chronic lower-back pain were harassed and then asked to either verbally express their anger or hold it in. Those who kept tight-lipped experienced more tension in the muscles along their spine. Tight muscles hurt whether you have ongoing back pain or aches from lifting too much, so follow the old adage and blow off some steam. Talking with others about your anger—or even writing it down—can help, experts say.
And the next time you see red, pay attention to whether your jaw is tightening or your breathing is getting shallower. These are signs that you're resisting your feelings, so do the opposite and let your jaw go slack or take deep breaths. Find a private place where you can allow yourself to really feel your anger and have a good hissy fit to release your emotions—and ward off tension in your back.
Pain Trigger #2: Your Smartphone
Your cell may make it easier to stay connected to friends or surf the web, but it could also be a source of pain. If you hold your phone between your shoulder and your ear so you can multitask while talking, it forces your neck to be held in what is called the "lateral bending position" for long periods of time, says Teitelbaum. This causes neck and shoulder aches—and even tingling down your arm. Hunching over a cell phone too much can also cause neck pain.
If you're going to be talking for more than a few minutes, use a headset or Bluetooth instead of cradling your cell with your shoulder. Holding your phone up to eye level—or just staying off it—can also cut down your pain.
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Pain Trigger #3: Thinking the Worst
"Catastrophizing"—or believing that a situation is much worse than it is—can result in stress and mess with your ability to function well on a day-to-day basis. Multiple studies have linked catastrophizing (aka big-time anxiety) to a heightened perception of pain. "Emotion and pain are processed in the same area of the brain, so if you're anxious or stressed, it's natural to feel physical pain," says Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD, a San Francisco–based psychologist with the Spine Care Medical Group. "That's not to say your pain is emotional, it's just that there's an intersection of the mind and body."
"When we catastrophize, we are focused on our worries rather than on finding solutions," says Nomita Sonty, PhD, a clinical psychologist and pain specialist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. To counteract this, Sonty recommends setting aside 10 minutes a day as designated worrying time. When you feel yourself getting anxious about something, tell yourself you'll tackle it during those 10 minutes. This helps you compartmentalize your anxiety and prevents it from monopolizing your time.
Pain Trigger #4: Skimping on Sleep
You've got e-mails to answer, closets to clean, and lunches to pack. But if you're putting sleep at the bottom of your to-do list, you're going to suffer. "In the pre-Internet days, Americans slept 9 hours a night," Teitelbaum says. "Today we average less than 6.5 hours." Your body makes human growth hormone during sleep, which is needed for tissue repair to ease pain, he says. Moreover, people with chronic insomnia have nearly three times the risk of chronic pain, according to a study in the journalSleep. (Beat your insomnia with these yoga moves.)
To sleep better tonight, start by getting more sun this a.m. Morning sun exposure helps recalibrate your internal circadian sleep clocks. Daytime exercise, turning down your bedroom's thermostat, and sleeping with a white noise machine are all proven sleep aids. (Here are 11 ways to set yourself up for a spectacular night of sleep.)
Pain Trigger #5: Your Work Area
You might not think sitting at your desk can up your pain risk since it doesn't feel like you're doing anything strenuous. But everything from your posture to the way your work area is set up could potentially cause injury. (And take your lunch break, people!)
Stick a blue dot on your computer monitor, and look at it every so often to remind yourself to relax your shoulders and neck. Also, ensure the top of your monitor is at or slightly below eye level so you're not straining your neck to look up. Many workplaces now offer ergonomic desk configuration services. If yours does, give them a call.
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Pain Trigger #6: Loneliness
You know that old Streisand tune that says people who need people are the luckiest people in the world? Well, denying those needs can lead to physical pain. "Experiencing chronic pain can be a very isolating experience," Bertagnolli says. "We're social creatures, but pain can make you withdraw from others around you and may lead to feelings of depression—which has been linked to increased pain."
"It's essential to get out and do as much as you can so you don't become isolated," Sonty says. Rather than, say, skip a friend's party altogether because you don't think you can handle sitting for 5 hours, make it a point to go and stay for only an hour. Also, support groups can remind you that you're not alone and give you advice on how to better manage pain.
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