Living with Chronic Pain

Introduction to Distraction Techniques for Chronic Pain


While medical treatments are essential when dealing with chronic pain, various complementary techniques are also available to combat pain. One of these valuable techniques is distraction.

Benefits of distraction

Focusing on pain can increase the perception of pain. It can also negatively affect an individual’s mood and increase feelings of helplessness. Changing that focus by using distraction not only prevents the focus-based increase in pain perception, but may actually reduce levels of pain.

Research on distraction techniques

Considerable research has been done on the use of distraction techniques as a tool for coping with pain, sometimes known as distraction analgesia. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that focusing on a task created distraction analgesia in many individuals with chronic pain. Dr. Ted Jones found that distraction decreased pain in 90 percent of his patients, usually by 20 to 50 percent. Distraction techniques have proven to be so effective that health care providers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford currently use distraction-based virtual reality therapy with pediatric patients to reduce their pain and anxiety.

Suggestions for distraction

Individuals can try distraction to reduce their pain levels when they find themselves focusing solely on their pain. Engaging in an enjoyable activity provides distraction while also emphasizing the positive aspects of life. Participating in a hobby or a favorite pastime with family or friends prevents isolation and also provides distraction. Activities that require intense concentration, such as puzzles, games or skill tests, are also an effective way to divert attention away from pain.

Using distraction techniques helps provide individuals with a greater sense of control over their pain, which can improve mental well-being. Distraction can play a significant role in how individuals cope with chronic pain on a daily basis.

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