When might a painkiller no longer be called a painkiller?
According to guidance from Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), that happens when a cycle of taking too many tablets results inmedication-overuse headaches, which are “completely preventable.”
There’s still the more straightforward type of aching head, of course, with simpler names and diagnoses, such as the recurring headaches I suffered in my late teens and early 20s, diagnosed as sinusitis.
Certainly my doctor did his best to help me. However, the antibiotics I was given didn’t address my symptoms, and left a legacy of side effects, which outlasted the painful problem being prescribed for. According to more recent research into that ailment, that’s not so surprising. Talking of antibiotics prescribed for sinusitis, it concluded that “in most cases the medication does not provide symptom relief for the condition.”
Those similarly trapped in what can seem like an exitless maze of pain, prescription, and a problem persisting, might feel, as I did; there has to be a better way.
The NICE guidance suggests being open to possible alternatives to pills for what it calls “headache management.” It goes as far as recommending acupuncture as a proven preventative approach to dealing with some types of this complaint. An article on the findings of headache-producing painkillers pointed to several “preventative tactics” recommended by medical experts. And a recent study found that “lying less” is linked with better mental and physical well-being, including less frequent headaches.
For those of us with less than a 100 percent track record of integrity, that might be an avenue worth pursuing!
Something else worked for me. I learned I could set aside the medicine and set about trying to understand the divine healing Principle, God, underlying the words and healings of Jesus.
Nothing changed at first.
However, after I’d spent some weeks of pondering spiritual ideas and praying, something clicked. I suddenly felt the presence of that divine Love which Jesus’ life indicates he knew so intimately. I felt it loving me and loving everyone else in the very diverse London neighborhood I was in at the time. It had no favorites. And it excluded no one. In the presence of such boundless compassion, I felt myself impelled – and empowered – to fear and hate less and to “love my neighbor” more.
The pain didn’t instantly vanish. But it drained away a handful of days later, in a moment of acting on that spirit of love though I initially felt disinclined to do so.
Three decades later, not only have those severe headaches never returned, I have barely had a mild headache since. I had gleaned the therapeutic possibilities of what author-physician Dr. Larry Dossey described in his book “Reinventing Medicine” as the “nonlocal mind,” which is “suffused with spiritual meaning.”
Since that time, my first choice of medication has been to strive to be more aware of, and express, that unbounded spiritual consciousness – that divine Mind – which spirituality and health pioneer Mary Baker Eddy described as the infinite intelligence behind Jesus’ healing work.
Such an approach to health is no guarantee of a problem-free life. But it comes with spiritual “health benefits,” with no adverse side effects. Each pain prevented by discerning life more spiritually is not only a physical freedom gained but a tender pointer to the awesome divine heritage we all have.
This was first published as Painkillers and Healing in The Christian Science Monitor.