Chronic Pain Management Techniques
Learning how to relax is an important and very useful skill to acquire in these stressful times. Relaxation not only promotes and maintains health and overall well-being, but can also be employed as a technique to ease chronic physical pain. It is clearly not an easy thing to do and takes a lot of practice and focus to perfect, especially when one is already distracted by bodily discomfort and pain. But, once you start working on it, relaxation can work wonders and help you release muscle tension from the body and shifting your attention away from the pain.
How to use systematic deep breathing for coping with chronic pain –
- Lay down in a relaxed position in a dark room. You may either close your eyes or tune your focus to a single point.
- Consciously begin relaxing your whole body such that your breathing gradually slows down. Take deep breaths using your chest. Whenever your mind seems to get distracted, think of a word like Relax and repeat it inside your head- think RE while breathing in and LAX while breathing out.
- Continue the exercise of controlled, relaxed breathing for 3-4 minutes.
- Once you feel yourself to be in rhythm, you can move ahead with imagery techniques.
Please find below, some pain management techniques that use imagery tools to control pain:
- Shifting the focus
The mind is a powerful gift. When used correctly, it can deliver surprising results. Pain sensation is a nervous function and is directly related to the brain. It has been demonstrated and established that the mind can aid in altering the sensations felt in the body. For example, if you are experiencing pain in your back, focus your attention to a healthy part of your body like your hand. Now, use your mind to alter the sensations in your hand. You could imagine your hand getting cold or warm for instance. Refocusing your attention to altering the sensation of another body part will shift your attention from the pain and its source.
- Disassociating from pain source
This technique requires you to either mentally distance yourself from the painful part or imagine the painful part as separate from the rest of the body. You could visualize a painful foot to be sitting at the corner of the room and command it to stay there, away from the rest of your body or from your mind.
- Splitting the sensation
With the sensory splitting technique, you can disintegrate your pain sensation into different parts. Like for a frozen shoulder, you could alienate the pain from the frozen sensation. Start focusing only on the frozen sensation without the pain.
This technique requires you to imagine an anesthetic being injected into the painful part of your body. For instance you could visualize anesthesia numbing your sprained ankle or imagine the sensation of a hot compress soothing your frozen shoulder.
- Mental Analgesics
Similar to the mental anesthetic concept, this is a technique involving imagination of a strong painkiller like Morphine being injected into the painful body part. In another scenario, one may visualize their brain releasing huge amounts of pain-relieving endorphins and the endorphins slowly flowing through the body to the painful part, soothing away all the pain sensations.
- Altered Sensations
Employ your mind to produce alternating sensations like cold, heat, numbing, etc. in your hand. Place the hand on the painful body part. Visualize transferring these pleasant sensations onto the inflicted area. Imagine the sensations soothing your pain.
- Regression/Progression of Age
You can use your mental eye to project your being into the future or back in time to a moment where there was no pain in your body. Tell yourself to believe that projection and instruct your brain to act according to this image.
Visualize an item which you can liken to your pain. For instance, a loud screeching noise or a lightbulb emitting blinding light. Imagine this item or thing as symbolic of your chronic pain. Now, use your mind to slowly reduce the irritating and disturbing qualities of the thing that you chose to represent the pain. For example, if you chose the screeching noise, reduce the noise and the screechy pitch. If you chose the blinding lightbulb, reduce its brightness and dim its harsh light. Symbolically you are visualizing reducing your pain.
- Positive Images
This is probably the easiest and most common technique to divert your mind from pain and discomfort. Imagine going to or being in a beautiful place like a hill station or the seaside. Visualize how pleasant you would feel at this place. Focus all your attention on this intense joy and the feeling of relaxation that you would experience there. Positive imagery helps uplift you emotionally and is very successful in taking your mind off your current painful state.
Mentally counting your breaths or the ticking hands of the clock or marks on the wall, etc. is a good way to put your mind to a little exercise and take the attention off the pain.
- Moving the pain
You can channel your focus to move your pain from the inflicted area to another body part where it feels easier to manage and to deal with. For instance, you can conjure an image of moving the actual pain from your back slowly into your arms and hands and releasing it out of your body into the air.
These techniques take time and require practice to become practically effective in pain relief and management. They are best learned with the help of an expert. Ideally you should work on pain coping techniques thrice a week for a period of 30 minutes. With practice, you will notice the effects becoming stronger and stronger and more lasting. Once you have mastered the use of these techniques for pain relief in a short session, you can practice doing it while walking or watching TV or working. With time, you will start feeling more equipped to handle the pain and control its effects on your daily life.