Using Laughter for Pain Relief - Acute or Chronic
For many of us pain is a constant struggle, something we have to put up with day in, day out, night in, night out. How do you cope with your pain?
Most people take medication for their pain, which is only natural when there are so few alternatives available. Pain can bring you to a place that is not very pleasant - both physically and mentally. But as every one knows, when you take painkillers for any length of time, they begin to lose their effectiveness, and you have to take more and more to achieve the same degree of pain suppression. This is a phenomenon known as 'tolerance'.
Have you ever thought of using laughter to rid yourself of pain? Believe me, it isn't as strange as it sounds.
Pain is a signal that has a certain degree of strength. It is important because the message it is carrying can, on occasion, be life or death. When you take drugs to nullify the signal, this is very effective in the short term. However, any pain signal received by the brain is really a survival mechanism for the body and so it's important the message gets through somehow.
The brain processes data sent from the rest of the body via the nervous system and interprets this information as pain, which forces us to take some kind of action. Remember that painkillers only work on the pain receptors in the brain, not on the part that hurts, so the part that hurts is free to find any way it can to communicate with the brain. You see, the body is very adaptive in how it finds new ways to get the signal through, and so as the painkilling drugs wear off, the message can come through stronger and stronger. Our response is usually to up the dose of painkiller or switch to a much stronger drug. This brings its own set of problems.
So what would you do if you discovered there was another way to control your pain?
My own experience.
I can report that I have managed to survive the last 25 years without taking any painkillers of any kind, other than those administered during surgery, or for routine dental work by injection. However, for small fillings or light dental work, then I usually don't bother.
I know that there will be many who instantly dismiss this with a big, 'So what?'. I can understand that. Some may even take umbrage because quite obviously their pain is many orders of magnitude greater than anything I have had to endure in my previous 25 years. Or so they may think.
And while it's true that I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone with a condition that causes acute or chronic pain, I am no stranger to pain either.
1). I had a knife slip which needed 10 stitches in my left hand, around 1984. The nurse where I worked had cleaned the cut and laid out the stitch materials, when a burn victim came into the surgery, which of course, took priority. Burns victims require isolated, sterile conditions, so I was left on my own.
After half an hour of waiting, the ambulance crew was still dressing the victim and the nurse was still busy hovering over them. So I stitched my own hand. No painkiller, no lignocaine; just the needle and thread that were lying there for the job.
The nurse eventually came back after about an hour and did a double-take at my hand. She couldn't decide whether she'd done it or not. She was horrified when I told her what I'd done, but conceeded that she couldn't have done a neater job. She said, 'I heard you laughing. I thought someone else had come into the surgery'. I said. 'No, this is how I deal with pain, I laugh!'. I know she thought me rather strange but decided to let it go and not report me.
2). I used to keep geese many years ago and one of the ganders attacked me as I came home from a night-shift, taking a chunk out of my thigh, even biting through my jeans. The skin chunk went down the ganders neck, so not long after, he went down mine. I call that poetic justice, but the point is this was treated with surgical spirit to kill any bugs and aloe vera gel to soften the scaring, and nothing else.
3.) In 2001 I fell over in the garden, slipping off a step and collapsing on top of myself, twisting my left leg laterally and posteriorly. This resulted in a comminuted fracture of the fibula. Both the lateral and medial malleolus snapped off. The left foot came out of its holding position at the end of the leg, and while it was being forced around to the rear, to the tune of 120 degrees, every main bone of the foot (talus, calcaneum, navicular and cuboid bones) was forced apart, tearing the ligaments that bound them.
This required 6 operations to reconstruct the foot, and scrape out calciferous material, to install plates and screws, and to take them out again later on. I will forever be grateful to the surgeons in Weston General and Southmead for the work they did to save my foot, even though the general consensus at the time was that it needed to come off.
Of course, I was knocked out for the operations, but my consultant's sidekick noted no painkillers had been prescribed for any of them. So he said, 'What do you do for the pain?'. I said, 'Meditation'. 'Yes', he said, 'What medication?'. I repeated my answer and added, 'plus I use laughter and deep breathing'. His eyes went up to the ceiling. This wasn't in his belief system at all.
In truth I used a combination of meditation, laughter and even crying when the pain was so bad I couldn't think straight enough to laugh or meditate. But most of the time I used laughter.
My wife helped me more than I can ever say during this time, but even she found it strange that I could be in so much pain and laugh at the same time. She would ask, 'If it hurts that bad, how can you be laughing and crying (or cussing) about it at the same time?'. Even though she was a witness to it, it was difficult for her to understand how laughing at your pain could make it go away, or switch it off.
4.) In 2004 I had to have both big toe nails removed. This was something to do with not being able wear shoes for several years because my left foot was 3 sizes bigger than my right following the accident in 3 above. Despite 2 very persistent nurses trying to distract me, one in each ear, I insisted on watching what was going on, and the screen was removed.
I was given a big box of Co-codamol tablets afterwards by a nurse who called me a 'male chauvinist pig' when I said I didn't want them. On going back to her desk, I heard her tell a collegue I was a 'testosterone junkie'. They finally went in the bin, unopened, when I noticed they were past their expiry date, some years later.
5.) To top it off, I've suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for the last 30 years. In the early days, I exhausted every type of medication on offer due to adverse reactions and side effects, so I stopped taking them. There has been a constant issue of painful episodes, but it would appear, not of degeneration in recent years.
The point here is I always use laughter to control pain.
How does this work?
I think the laughter releases endorphins into the blood stream and acts as a morphine substitute. In fact, gram for gram, I believe endorphins are a hundred times more effective than opiates. I'm sure I read that somewhere.
Don't get me wrong, if I crush my finger in a car door, I don't just laugh. I jump up and down, shake it about, cuss and swear until the air is blue, but, I'm laughing all the while I'm doing it. My wife does look at me strange, and tries to get me to stop cussing quite so loudly, but she'd be the first to tell you this really works.
Does forced laughter work equally as well as genuine laughter?
You may be wondering if forced laughter works equally as well as natural laughter. Afterall, why would you WANT to laugh if you are in so much pain? It's a good question, but you do have choices.
So often when we are in pain it is easy to feel sad, angry or hurt; to curl up in a warm bed or to cry; to contort into strange shapes and hold yourself in an unbalanced posture. So why not add a good laugh to this list?
The last of the 3 tracks of our laughter audio product is just solid, wall to wall laughter. Why not put this into your regular mp3 player and play it when you are in pain?
You then just start to laugh yourself, or perhaps just a chuckle to start off with. It will feel forced to begin with because nothing funny has happened, and nobody has just told you a brilliant joke. But laughter is infectious. And even forced laughter becomes genuine laughter in the end.
If you want to give this a try, the mp3 is only £4.99. That's nearly half the price of an NHS prescription.
I don't want to encourage you to replace your prescription without proper guidance from your doctor. But you may find you don't need so many tablets or medicine in the long run. That's a good thing, right? I hope you'll give this a try and let me know how you get on. All the best, Phil