Living with Chronic Pain
Reading to Reduce Chronic Pain
Individuals looking for a different or simple way to reduce chronic pain may want to consider reading fiction. Reading, or listening to a story, for 25 to 30 minutes has shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter oxytocin, decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and decrease levels of pain.
Reasons to read or listen to fiction
The reasoning behind this is that reading creates a “narrative transport,” in which the reader or listener loses themselves in the story. This creates a temporary interruption from the real world, including stress and pain. Becoming distracted by a story in order to decrease pain sensations is a skill that can be developed and practiced by individuals experiencing chronic pain.
The benefits of reading to reduce chronic pain may be heightened by participating in shared reading. Shared reading consists of a small group of individuals getting together to read short stories or other literature aloud.
This experience can help with addressing negative emotions that may be contributing to chronic pain and remembering positive memories that do not involve pain. It also encourages the brain to send pain-free messages to the body. Decreased pain severity and improved mood may last for up to two days after shared reading.
When choosing books to read alone or with others to reduce chronic pain, consider fictional stories that create an escape, engage the senses, and spark the imagination.