5 ways to ease pain using the mind-body connection – Harvard Health Blog
I broke my elbow a few weeks ago. There was no bone fracture – just a severe bruise after I slipped into the kitchen and landed on my arm – but at times the pain was excruciating. So I followed the doctor’s instructions: keep my elbow on, ice it, and occasionally take an over-the-counter pain reliever. (PS I wear sneakers in the kitchen now.)
Something else also helped: body-mind therapies. These approaches aim to change our awareness of pain and to recycle the way we react to it. Therapies can help us control pain – like persistent back pain – or cope better with it. While these techniques will not erase the pain, they can help change the perception of the intensity of pain through distraction, relaxation, and reframing our thoughts.
Five Mind-Body Therapies to Consider for Pain Relief
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This talk therapy teaches people to reorient their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in response to chronic pain. For example, when a pain flare occurs, instead of preparing yourself and thinking, “Oh no, it’s coming back,” tell yourself you’ve dealt with this before, and instead focus on your favorite place in the room. world: imagine it in your mind and feel how happy or relaxed you are when you are there. A trained CBT therapist can train you to hone your skills.
Deep breathing. We usually take small, short breaths without noticing our breathing, especially when we are in pain. Focusing on the breath and taking deep breaths calms the mind and induces the relaxation response, a well-studied physiological response that counteracts the stress response and can reduce the severity of chronic pain. To practice deep breathing:
- Slowly inhale through your nose, allowing your chest and lower abdomen to rise as you completely fill your lungs.
- Now slowly breathe out through your mouth or nose.
- Practice deep breathing for several minutes.
Meditation. Like deep breathing, meditation triggers the relaxation response and can reduce the perception of pain. There are many methods you can use to meditate, such as transcendental meditation (repeating a word, phrase, or sound to calm your thoughts); yoga (a series of strengthening and stretching postures combined with breathing techniques); or mindfulness meditation (objectively focusing on negative thoughts as they move through your mind, so that you can achieve a state of calm).
A simple way to meditate:
- Sit quietly, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing.
- Say a word like “peace” or “one” every time you breathe out.
- Don’t worry about the thoughts that come to your mind; you can come back to that later. Keep repeating your word and focus on the breath.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This approach combines mindfulness meditation and yoga to raise awareness and accept instantaneous experiences, including pain. A 2019 study published in the journal Evidence-based mental health found that MBSR was just as effective as CBT in reducing pain and depression and improving physical functioning, compared to usual care or no care. You’ll find MBSR programs at hospitals, universities, and meditation centers, as well as online videos.
Relaxation. Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, can also help reduce the perception of pain. To try progressive muscle relaxation, start with the muscles in your face and work your way down your body. Squeeze each muscle or muscle group for 20 seconds before slowly releasing the contraction. As the muscle relaxes, focus on releasing the tension and feeling relaxed.
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