Potential Causes: About Chronic Pain

Some conditions that may result in chronic pain include arthritis, back conditions such as a herniated disc, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, fibromyalgia and cancer. The actual cause of a physical condition turning into chronic pain may be:

  • Biology of mental constructs; mind-body connection
  • Can be considered a “misguided” mind-body response that amplifies pain
  • Stress
  • Suffering-pain cycle

Critical Understanding of Chronic Pain

For decades, scientists and doctors thought that pain could be caused only by damage to the structure of the body. They looked for the source of chronic pain in bulging spinal discs, muscle injuries, and infections. More recent research, however, points to a second source of chronic pain: the very real biology of your thoughts, emotions, expectations, and memories. Most chronic pain has its roots in a physical injury or illness, but it is sustained by how that initial trauma changes not just the body but also the mind-body relationship. The complexity of chronic pain is actually good news. It means that trying to fix the body with surgeries, pain medications, or physical therapy is not your only hope. By first understanding chronic pain as a mind-body experience and then using yoga’s toolbox of healing practices—including breathing exercises and restorative poses—you can find true relief from pain and begin to reclaim your life. – Kelly McGonigal

Misguided Learning

Many forms of chronic pain are best described as misguided learning. The mind and body, in an attempt to protect you from future threats, have learned to amplify your present pain and suffering… Through the repeated experience of pain, the nervous system gets better at detecting threat and producing the protective pain response. So unfortunately, in the case of chronic pain, learning from experience and getting “better” at pain paradoxically means more pain, not less. – Kelly McGonigal

Pain & Suffering

Crucial to the yogic perspective on pain relief is understanding the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is the physical or emotional hurt, whereas suffering is how our mind reacts to that pain…Suffering—just like pain itself—can keep the body in a state of stress, which in turn can worsen sleep, promote weight gain, aggravate inflammation, and generally make your underlying physical condition worse. – Timothy McCall, MD