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What Hinduism Can Offer To Help With Your Pain: Part 6

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This article is part of a series about how Hinduism views pain and suffering. Today we’ll look at What published studies tell us about acceptance as a coping skill.

In pain medicine journals, an excellent researcher Lance McCracken defines acceptance of chronic pain as living with pain without reaction, disapproval, or attempts to reduce or avoid it. Acceptance of chronic pain is, of course, more than a mental exercise and not simply a decision or a belief. Importantly, acceptance involves a disengagement from struggling with pain, a realistic approach to pain and pain-related circumstances, and an engagement in positive everyday activities. These words echo the Hindu goals of equanimity and detachment.

Dr. I. Viane et al describe the danger of a sole focus on trying to find ways to decrease pain, especially when this meets with little success. These strategies can actually increase your focus on pain, i.e. How much pain do I have? How about now? And now? … How much pain does this activity cause me? It’s also a problem to avoid activities that increase pain, but that are positive in other ways. This can decrease functioning through avoidance of work, relationships, and leisure.

As McCracken summarizes, it may be difficult for a person with chronic pain to devote their efforts equally to pain control and to valued aspects of their life at the same time. If efforts to control pain dominate, quality of living may be sacrificed. In contrast, acceptance of some degree of pain can free you to focus your energy on living a positive life despite pain.

What’s very interesting is that McCracken found that greater acceptance of pain was associated with reports of less pain, less pain-related anxiety and avoidance, less depression and disability, and better work status. Lots of good stuff! The positive correlation between acceptance and measures of functioning was independent of pain intensity. This means that it’s not just those who have lower pain scores who can accept their pain.

Scores of acceptance of pain can successfully predict which patients are classified as functioning well, compared with those who are dysfunctional, again, even after influences of pain severity, depression, and pain-related anxiety are taken into account. Acceptance is superior to other coping techniques in explaining adjustment to chronic pain.


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