One of the most significant contributors to addiction in the United States is the opioid epidemic. Millions of Americans have become addicted to prescription painkillers over the past 20 years. In fact, from 2002 to 2018, it is estimated that nearly 86% of people who were using heroin had previously used prescription opiates.

Outside the meddling of prescription drug companies, addiction to opiates and other painkillers is nearly a direct result of suffering injury or chronic pain. The CDC estimates that almost 50 million adult Americans suffer from chronic pain, and the prescription medications used to treat such conditions are often highly addictive. To prevent new individuals from becoming addicted to opiates and help recovering addicts suffering from chronic pain, other options such as somatic experiencing therapy (SET) should be explored as an alternative to traditional pain medications.

What Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?

SET is a “body first” approach to healing that combines the benefits of psychotherapy and physical therapy. This therapeutic practice is centered on the belief that traumatic events such as sexual assault, injuries, emotional abuse, and physical abuse, can result in the body staying in fight or flight mode if the energy from the traumatic event is not released properly.

When your body enters fight or flight mode, the body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones speed up your body’s reaction time to address any threats. After the danger passes, your body usually turns off these hormones naturally. However, suppose you are continually introduced to stressors or other traumatic events before your brain powers down its flight or fight hormones. In that case, you may continue to produce these hormones as if you were still under attack. 

If your body continues to release high levels of cortisol and adrenaline when you are not experiencing a traumatic event, it will deteriorate your health. Side effects of cortisol and adrenaline overproduction include:

  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased risk for heart attack or stroke
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dehydration 
  • Increased frequency of urination

These symptoms will usually lead to chronic pain and poor mental health outcomes. If you begin suffering from depression while dealing with chronic pain, it can magnify the intensity of the pain and cause your symptoms to worsen.  

SET recognizes this cycle and aims to put the body into “freeze” mode so the trauma cycle can be completed and the energy from the traumatic event be released. This treatment aims to allow the body a chance to turn off the fight or flight hormones. 

How Somatic Experiencing Therapy Reduces Chronic Pain

When you are in chronic pain or emotionally drained from experiencing an onslaught of traumatic events or negative emotions, you tend to become sedentary. A lack of movement prevents traumatic energy from being released from the body. Additionally, as fight or flight hormones build up in combination with the lack of exercise, the connective tissues in your body will begin to harden and this can result in chronic pain. 

SET focuses on releasing emotional and physical pain through movement and mindfulness. It allows your body to regain its strength and your mind to process and let go of the pain of traumatic events. By being mindful of the pain you are feeling in your body and understanding the emotions connected to that pain, you may be able to access the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). 

The PNS, also referred to as is a part of your nervous that is responsible for allowing your body to exit fight or flight mode. It isn’t surprising that the PNS is nicknamed the “rest and digest” phase. By tapping into your PNS and releasing negative pain and emotions, your body can halt the production of fight or flight hormones and begin healing from traumatic events. 

SET practices not only help release past pain but mastering its practices can also prepare you for possible future traumatic events or stressful emotions. Instead of allowing physical and emotional pain to fester for weeks, months, or years, you can have better control of your body and mind, giving you the tools you need to release that pain more quickly than you would have without SET. 

Practicing Somatic Experiencing Therapy

Here at Vanity Wellness Center, we are experts at guiding our clients through using holistic techniques like SET, and we have seen firsthand the benefits people gain through using its techniques. Luckily, SET is very easy to practice at home. All you need is a quiet space and 30 minutes of alone time. Practices of SET include:

  • Mediation
  • Yoga
  • Moving your body in ways that are comfortable for you
  • Tensing and relaxing different parts of your body

At Vanity Wellness, we have seen how the cycle of chronic pain and poor mental health can result in substance abuse disorders. Often, the only relief people have for their pain is taking opiates, but using painkillers long-term can negatively affect your physical health and result in addiction. Addiction will almost inevitably interrupt your ability to feel good about yourself, derail your life, and prevent you from releasing any traumatic events associated with your pain. We offer holistic approaches that will give you the tools you need to face your chronic physical and emotional pain without the use of opiates. SET is one of many therapies we practice at Vanity Wellness that can help relieve physical pain while improving your mental health. With dozens of treatment options available, we can help you find a holistic practice that works for you. For more information, call us at (866) 587-1737

Categories: Vanity NewsTags: , By Published On: July 16th, 2022

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