Most people believe that pain is a simple mechanism: an unpleasant stimulus triggers a pain impulse that is directly sent to the brain. While this is true in broad strokes, there are a multitude of processes that influence what sensation the brain receives and how it interprets it. That is why more pain specialists are adopting mind and body pain management techniques that capitalize on this key interaction to mitigate pain symptoms.
In most patients experiencing pain, there is a very real injury that is causing it. However, in some select patients the pain sensation is amplified by a number of factors that can make the sensation more intense. These factors, which may include stress, fear of pain, or mental health conditions, can distort the natural sensation and make it seem considerably worse. In some cases, this mind and body interface may be so misaligned that pain may be felt even if there is no underlying physiological cause.
The good news is that the ability your mind has to modify sensations can also be used to minimize feelings of pain. If you are open to some mind-body techniques, you should ask your physician which would be most appropriate for you. Some of the pain management techniques include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy uses counseling to analyze how you anticipate and respond to pain, then you work with your therapist to develop personalized coping strategies. Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the principle that people produce their own sensory world which includes pain. Whether or not you fully believe that, CBT has some powerful pain management techniques that can help control many conditions that may augment pain symptoms including stress, anxiety, sleep and muscle tension.
- Meditation: Another important method for controlling your mind and body interactions is meditation. There are many meditation styles, but most help you attune to your body’s functions, harmonizing and maintaining an optimal state. This may include focused breathing, mind calming techniques or repeating a mantra. One study found that chronic pain sufferers who engaged in meditation for at least four days experienced a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity.
- Yoga: Low-impact physical activity like yoga or tai chi has helped many people better manage their chronic pain conditions. These pain management techniques provide physical benefits like stronger muscles and enhanced flexibility which can mitigate many pain conditions like arthritis or back pain, but these exercises also emphasize a mental peacefulness that helps minimize pain symptoms.
- Enjoyable hobby: You have probably experienced a reduction in pain while concentrating on a favored pastime. By engaging in a hobby, you can limit the effects of your chronic pain condition and find some relief without resorting to medications. If you can attain full immersion, then you may be able to completely block out pain sensations for at least a short time.
- Clinical hypnosis: Working with a hypnotherapist can help you modify subconscious perceptions and reactions. Your therapist will work with you to instill more beneficial response behaviors that can alleviate even the most uncomfortable pain symptoms.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.