Pain is often thought of as the brain’s way of telling us something isn’t right, using the sensation of pain as a message. While this is true in most cases, scientists have discovered that with chronic pain, it may be the message that is the problem.
One way to view chronic pain is to think of a fire alarm going off, telling you your kitchen is on fire. Imagine that you have put out the fire, but the alarm continues to ring. This is what happens with chronic pain, even though the injury (fire) has been eliminated, the pain (alarm) continues.
It has been well documented that our minds have a stronger capability than we know, so the following mind techniques may be able to help sufferers think the pain away.
The act of meditation looks to focus your attention on one thing (not the pain), which should help to distract your mind from the pain message. Another approach the practice has is called ‘open presence’ which involves focusing on nothing at all and letting any feelings or thoughts pass you by with a sense of detachment.
If meditation isn’t your thing, you can still employ the distraction element. Taking up a new hobby such as piano or painting can help you immerse yourself into something other than the pain; this should give your mind enough power to negate the pain messages.
A study carried out in 2009 saw how the expectation of pleasure could actually reduce pain. In the study two groups of rats were fed on a metal plate kept at room temperature.
The first group was given regular rat food and the second was given chocolate-covered biscuits. After the rats were conditioned to the foods, the scientists began heating the metal plate to uncomfortable temperatures. The rats expecting chocolate biscuits were willing to stay on the heated plate twice as long as the rats expecting regular food. Book yourself a massage or holiday and mentally expect pleasure to help ease the pain.
Seeing positive images can completely change the way our bodies respond to pain. An example of this can be seen in a Seattle hospital burn unit where a video called ‘snow world’ is used to help burn victims deal with the pain of getting their dressings changed. The video depicts scenes of snow, ice and cold weather, which have been shown to help diminish pain.
Where we direct our attention has the potential to be very powerful when it comes to pain relief, it is just a case of knowing where and how to direct this attention. Hypnotherapists can help you guide your attention and help to change the way you perceive pain. For more information, please see our Pain Management page.
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