Chronic pain isn’t just a simple sensation. There are plenty of factors that influence how the brain processes each pain signal. When left untreated, pain can drive strong emotional responses, such as stress, fear, and anxiety.
While most of us often rely on pain medications, there are natural ways to experience pain relief—these range from yoga and massage to chiropractic services. But apart from these techniques, did you know that your brain can also help you manage and reduce pain sensation? In this article, we’ll explore different mindfulness techniques for pain management.
Relaxation response directly prevents reactions that drive pain, tension, and distress. This can be done through yoga-based breathing exercises and diaphragmatic breathing. You can also try guided relaxation to calm both your body and mind deeply. Just simply download an instructional video or audio file through your mobile device, then wear your earphones or connect them to a speaker. This allows you to simulate face-to-face sessions with meditation instructors. As you close your eyes and follow the instructions, you’ll eventually feel your body enter a calm, peaceful state.
The main purpose of guided relaxation is to calm the nervous system by lowering heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure while improving blood flow. If your mind feels stressed because of anxiety or pain, breathing becomes more shallow and tense. But the study reveals that when you alter your breathing patterns consciously, it will also change your emotional state. By doing this, your mind enters a state of calming relaxation.
Once your mind silences the physiological signals, this will send a signal to your mind and body to feel more safe and trusting, which enhances mental and physical well-being.
Meditation is a popular technique that promotes healing response and relaxation. Regular meditators who undergo brain scans show results of increased activity in brain regions related to emotional regulation and reduced activity in regions related to pain.
People with anxiety or chronic pain who regularly meditate revealed that their trauma or pain begins to have a lesser effect on them. Although it is still present, the pain becomes less distressing and matters less.
A 2014 study at Standard University also revealed that compassion meditation, such as loving-kindness meditation, significantly reduces chronic pain. Other meditation exercises, such as relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing, can also train the body and mind to be less responsive to pain and other negative triggers once they are applied regularly.
Establishing a self-care routine will prevent the body from anticipating occasions of pain. Self-nurturing habits, such as getting complete sleep and eating well, promote clear attention and a calm attitude once difficult situations related to pain start setting in.
Seeking support from trusted friends and family members is also a form of self-care. Telling them about your thoughts and concerns is a great way to feel protected. It helps when talking to someone who knows and understands what you’re going through.
Self-care technique doesn’t start and end on health-focused activities, such as exercise and meditation. You can also distract yourself or shift your attention to what interests you. This way, the pain won’t be the only thing stuck in your mind. Immerse yourself in mentally stimulating activities you enjoy, such as your favorite hobby, board games, video games, or housecleaning.
When the pain becomes extremely troublesome, make sure to amp your self-care routines to keep you calm.
Using your mind, transfer your pain to another area of your body where you think the pain is easier to handle. If your leg pain has been particularly distracting, mentally move the pain from your affected leg towards the lower back. You can also try moving the pain of your body by letting it vanish into the air.
This technique works the same as imagining pain as a red ball. Every time you inhale and exhale, you imagine the ball of the pain getting smaller and changing its hue to a more relaxing color (e.g., blue or green). Similarly, you can imagine a cooling and soothing ice pack placed on the affected area. Imagining positive images also helps in pain relief, but the results won’t always be the same for everyone.
These techniques will take a lot of time to be effective in reducing chronic pain. Before testing them, practice doing deep relaxation and breathing exercises for a few weeks until you master them.
While the brain plays a critical role in reducing painful sensations, it would be better to consult a medical provider to know the underlying cause of your pain. Remember, the examples above are just some supplementary solutions to help you with your pain management.