Living with Chronic Pain
Deep Breathing and Mind-Based Techniques to Cope With Chronic Pain
Deep breathing is at the core of mind-based techniques to cope with chronic pain. It sounds simple, but deep breathing is a specific process with effective results. Deep breathing involves inhaling through the nose while the belly expands, holding for a few seconds, and slowly exhaling through the mouth while the belly deflates.
While deep breathing, individuals can perform the following mind-based exercises to cope with episodes of heightened pain:
The mind/body connection is powerful. When an individual experiences heightened pain, they can use dissociation to cope. Dissociation involves using the mind to separate the painful area of the body from the rest of the body or separating the body from the mind. For example, if an individual feels pain in their leg, they can imagine their leg sitting on a table across the room. This may sound odd, but it is a powerful pain-reduction technique.
Using mental anesthesia or analgesia
Individuals can imagine that they have an ice pack on the painful area, a numbing medication or pain medication has been injected into the painful area, or a rush of endorphins (natural pain-relieving chemicals in the brain) have been released into the body. This technique can relax the body and reduce intense pain sensations.
Moving the pain
Individuals can mentally shift the sensations of chronic pain from a place of high intensity to a place of low intensity. While deep breathing and relaxing the body, individuals can visualize pain moving from one location to another as it dissipates while traveling through the body. For example, moving the pain from the shoulder to the hand and then releasing it into the atmosphere.
Distractions can be highly effective for managing chronic pain. Refocusing the mind on something other than pain is a powerful pain-reduction technique. Distractions can include talking on the phone, watching television, reading a book, doing a puzzle, etc.
Counting helps as a mechanism for diverting attention away from chronic pain. When pain begins to heighten, counting refocuses the mind. It can be as simple as counting the trees in the yard or cars on the road.
This pain management technique includes separating chronic pain sensations. For example, an individual can focus on the sensation of heat in a specific location rather than the intense pain.