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 Sounds Like Silence: And Chronic Pain 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Over Matter by . View all columns in series
During a recent lifetime music achievements awards ceremony in New York City, I listened to a United Nations diplomat discussing the extraordinary challenges that exist in third world countries ravaged by war. Recalling his deepest sentiments, he commented about an eerie feeling that was pervasive in his early career. He described it beyond a mere sense of discomfort or unease. At first it actually seemed more ominous and unsettling than the very real prospect of personal danger.

What the diplomat described was a haunting and painful sense of emptiness he always sensed in those circumstances. After struggling to understand the basis for his feelings, he finally realized the essence of his personal unrest - all music in the country had disappeared.

Gone were the singing, chanting, drumming or any form of music-making. Those war-torn societies were left silenced. Later explaining that such a void is the hallmark of a nation and it's people beaten down and hopeless, he also discovered that as the music returned, so did the heartbeat of the nation and its people.

It's not surprising therefore amidst overwhelming personal challenges of ongoing pain and suffering, our song is silenced. Is this purely a reflection of personal loss? Or is it the music of our hearts that serves to inspire wellness and rejuvenate us each day?

The acceptance of music as a healing strategy is deeply rooted in antiquity.
"Pythagoras of Samos, a very wise teacher of ancient Greece, knew how to work with sound. In his mystery schools of Delphi and Crotona, he taught his students how certain melodies could produce responses within the human organism. He demonstrated that the right sequence of sounds played musically on an instrument, can change behavior patterns and accelerate the healing process." (Ancient Greek story)

Chronic pain progressively drains quality of life. It is also considered one of the most costly health problems in America. Compounded by a spiraling cost of more than $50 billion each year, the real challenge of addressing the needs of pain sufferers is considerable. Despite an extensive research commitment at leading institutions worldwide, few satisfactory solutions are surfacing, and suffering persists.

Chronic pain for many is no less than overwhelming - life changing for the sufferer and the family. It has the potential to destroy quality of life on many levels. Individuals, lonely, isolated and unable to perform the activities they once enjoyed often reach a point where life holds little value. Coupled with a host of physical restrictions, the sufferer becomes progressively more detached as he/she resigns from the activities of living that once served to promote wellness and inner peace. As a result, a vicious downward spiral ensues. Not unexpectedly, the music disappears.

Actually so does the laughter, smiles, joy, camaraderie, sense of meaning and purpose, creativity and positive outlook.

After several unsuccessful therapeutic attempts, many individuals eventually give upæ on themselves, their healthcare providers, families and friends. At this point intertwined roots firmly entangled within the mind-body-spirit continuum render uni-dimensional approaches inadequate.

How can we as individuals best approach these challenging physical, emotional and spiritual issues which are often inseparable?

The answer lies in discovering what we need to do in order to become whole again. For success will not be achieved by simply abandoning conventional medical wisdom and trying the latest advertised gadget or supplement. Too much is at stake.

As noted in my first book, Reprogramming Pain, resolution of pain can only be achieved when we strive to put back into our lives what is missing. When we combine logical medical treatment approaches with a determined attempt to achieve a sense of wholeness and inner balance, then (and only then) will our lives have meaning again.

Perhaps it's time to put the music, laughter and joy back into our lives, rather than just waiting for the pain to disappear. This physician believes these are among the most important elements that serve to keep us healthy in the first place. While the choice is yours, it's gratifying to know that hospitals throughout the world are beginning to realize the value of these approaches in the context of caring for the "whole" person. One day in the near future, instead of just receiving a few pain pills, you might be surprised with a healthy dose of music therapy.

And when you do, your pain will lessen, and your song of healing will resound - Mind Over Matter!

© 2000 Barry Bittman, MD all rights reserved

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 About The Author
Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, award-winning producer/director and inventor. As CEO and Medical Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, a......moreBarry Bittman MD
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