Having Surgery? When Mind over Matter Matters

Having Surgery? When Mind over Matter Matters | Todd J. Albert, MD | NYCNo one enjoys living in chronic pain, yet millions of Americans do. If you have been among this elite group, you know that there is a steep emotional price. Chronic pain inhibits a high-quality of life. It keeps you from truly enjoying your work or your personal life. As such, chronic pain often leads to excessive stress and anxiety, and even depression. Interestingly enough, the idea of surgery can exacerbate these psychological side effects of pain.

Neck or back surgery is an option when alternatives are unable to achieve the objective of a more comfortable life. Many people have mixed feelings about their surgery, though. On the one hand, there is a sense of relief that pain may be significantly diminished. On the other hand, well, surgery is just stressful. Here, we offer techniques that have been thoroughly tested and proven to help.

Ease Surgery-Related Anxieties

  1. Know what motivates you. Before neck or back surgery, develop a mental list (or even a dream board) of the activities you will be able to do after you recuperate. What did you use to love but lost your ability to do because of pain? What new hobbies might you like to try? Having a mental image of your future life can keep you motivated to stay positive about surgery.
  2. Turn away from the dark side. It’s so easy to lean into catastrophic thinking. The best thing we can say is, just don’t. There is no value in even contemplating worst-case scenarios. Psychologists call this “negative coping,” and attach no benefit to it whatsoever. A positive mindset evokes feel-good chemicals in the brain that reduce stress, and have even been shown to hasten recovery from illness and injury.
  3. Implement some new skills. Just like you can learn to swing a golf club, you can learn to mitigate stress when it arises out of nowhere. Breathing techniques, journaling, exercising, and meditating are just a few examples of anti-anxiety skills. Talking with a loved one or therapist can also help when anxiety feels overwhelming.

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Pain management and post-operative care are important aspects of our practice. If you have questions about an upcoming surgery or treatment, we’re happy to speak with you.

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