Chronic physical pain of different kinds is one of the most common problems today. As a result of poor posture, intense work habits, accidents or injuries that don’t fully cure, chronic pain ends up being something that many of us live with. It can adversely affect all aspects of our lives – our work, relationships and even ability to go through each day.
With this in mind, we’d like to explore the strong connection between our bodies and our minds. Many physiotherapists and psychiatrists believe in various mind-based techniques to help manage persistent pain.
If you find that your pain continues over a long period of time, and regular medicines and treatments are not helping, you may consider using some mind-based techniques. Here’s a description of a few possible methods:
1. Relax the body: Go to a quiet room, switch off allthe lights and any devices that would distract you (phones, laptops etc.) and draw the curtains. When experiencing severe pain, the body’s reaction is to follow rapid and shallow breathing patterns. Try to counter this by breathing deliberately and deeply, into the stomach. This is called diaphragmatic breathing; incidentally similar to Lamaze techniques, which are used to relax women during childbirth.
2. Relax muscles deliberately: While in a resting position, and observing deep breathing, resist urge to move about. Practice Yoganidra, or mindful meditation; an ancient yogic technique that can easily be done at home. Lie on your back and slowly guide your conscious attention from one muscle to the next, intentionally relaxing each one – from each toe, to the crown of your head. You will slowly feel a lot of the tension carried in stiff muscles disappear.
3. Change focus: Try to divert your attention onto other things. Seek out positive distractions such as watching movies, playing videogames or spending time with friends. Studies have also shown that music can be a powerful tool to change focus. It has been found to increase a feeling of power in the body and draw attention away from pain.
4. Get creative: Use a “mental anesthetic”! Picture being given a novocaine shot or an ice pack. And commit to the mental experiment by picturing it through till the end by visualizing what the area would feel like when it is numb or as the pain fades away. Concentrate on positive emotions and try to engage all 5 of your senses. Remember that details are key, so the more intricate this daydream, the better!
However, it is important to remember that pain is the body’s warning signal and it usually means that something is wrong. Make sure to see a doctor about persistent pain to make sure that you get any necessary treatment.
Best results are seen with a combination of techniques, so combine some of the above methods with each other, as well as with regular pain-killers, and physiotherapy.