6 Ways To Fight Acute And Chronic Pain
If you suffer from any kind of pain, you might feel skeptical about using your thoughts to help fight it. But according to Janice M. Singles, PsyD, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, “individuals with rheumatoid arthritis can learn mind-body techniques to assist the body and mind in relaxing. This generally reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body, allowing the immune system to be better able to fight off illness.”
Here are six techniques to help fight both acute and chronic pain.
Food fantasies. Whether you dream about your favorite cake or a pancake breakfast, a study at the University of Wisconsin found that fantasizing about favorite foods helped to alleviate pain from putting a hand into icy water. Chocolate was the clear favorite among participants, although a roast dinner, pasta, pizza, and fruit were also preferred food items.
Meditation. According to a study in 2011, mindfulness meditation was found to help reduce the intensity of pain by 11 percent to 70 percent while reducing pain unpleasantness from 20 percent to 93 percent in people with 80 minutes of meditation training who had a heat probe placed on their calves. Researchers have found that certain areas of the brain are responsible for this subverting of pain.
Controlling breath. According to Singles, deep breathing from the diaphragm can help immensely since “this helps harness the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the quieting response, as opposed to the symptoms of arousal that happen with the pain signals themselves.”
Distraction. “[Pain] keeps getting in your face and demanding attention,” Singles says, since it is a survival mechanism, but chronic pain can become more of an emotional problem. She suggests focusing on other things, since “positive distractions are very helpful because the more you focus on pain, guaranteed the worse you’re going to feel.” Progressive relaxation, reading a book, and watching a movie are all distractions from the immediate issue.
Mantras. According to Ellen Slawsby, PhD, director of Pain Services at the Benson Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, even 30 seconds of a mantra can lessen unpleasant sensations, and she recommends using a positive or neutral word or phrase, not a sound. “That’s using something inborn, an internal mechanism to elicit your own endorphins or endogenous morphine,” she says.
Visualizing. Slawsby also suggests visualization, and “the key is knowing what kinds of things are relaxing for you and envisioning that can be helpful. Visualization can be great for arthritis patients to ease joint pain.” One of her recommendations is to imagine you’re in a warm bath. “Go through the whole imagery of going into the tub, your toes, ankles, knees, hip joint, lower back, middle back, shoulders. Imagine the joints being warm and relaxed without the pressure of the regular planetary pull because you’re in the water. It gives you a buoyancy,” she says.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.