Living with Chronic Pain
6 Mind-Based Techniques to Help Cope With Chronic Pain
Pain is subjective; it differs for each individual. Chronic pain can cause feelings of anxiety, depression or even panic depending on the individual and the intensity and duration of the pain. Coping strategies that employ the mind can be used to help reduce the perception of pain levels.
1. Deep breathing
The process of deep breathing naturally relaxes the mind and muscles. Deep breathing involves slowing inhaling through the nose deep into the abdomen (so the belly expands), holding the breath for a few counts and slowly exhaling through the mouth (so the belly deflates). This practice diverts attention away from pain by focusing the mind on breathing and releasing muscle tension.
Biofeedback is a type of relaxation therapy taught by professional licensed therapists. Individuals learn how to control involuntary bodily functions, such as muscle tension, heart rate and pain perception. A biofeedback device reinforces success when an individual learns to relax and release their muscle tension voluntarily. It may take some time to perfect it; however, this method can eventually be used without the help of a therapist or a biofeedback device.
3. Guided imagery
Guided imagery is used to help individuals shift their focus from their pain to pleasant and relaxing mental images. The practice of guided imagery may include the repetition of positive phrases or words. Guided imagery can be taught by a therapist or learned at home. Various guided imagery tutorials are available online.
4. Distraction techniques
Distraction techniques, such as watching television, reading a book, playing a game or talking to a friend, can be used to divert attention away from pain. Distraction is a simple, powerful coping tool.
Some individuals with chronic pain may consider hypnosis with a professional, certified therapist. Individuals can also learn self-hypnosis to use at home when pain levels are heightened.
6. Positive affirmation
Positive affirmation involves training the mind to focus on positive thoughts rather than negative messages. This may include placing notes with positive messages around the house or repeating a positive phrase, such as “I always manage to last through the pain!” whenever pain arises.