At least 50 million people in the United States spend every day dealing with some level of pain. Even though pain is the number one reason people see their doctors, many people don’t understand that pain is both a mental and physical phenomenon.
Pain As a Mind-Body Issue
Yes, the pain you feel is very real. Even if your reaction to similar pain is more intense than someone else, it does not mean that you are exaggerating. The way you feel pain is determined by a lot of different factors including:
- Genetic makeup
- Past experiences with pain
Some research indicates that alleviating pain involves more than targeting the problems in the body. The best pain relief may involve mind-body therapy, which works on a mental and physical level. Overriding the pain signals identified by your nervous system with careful distractions could potentially help you not feel pain — at least temporarily.
Distracting yourself from chronic pain may be achievable by practising these tips. Doctors may also want to consider these techniques to help guide their patients.
Alter Your Focus
Pick a different body part on which to focus, instead of the part experiencing pain. For example, if you have pain in your shoulder, shift attention to your hand. Now, imagine that your hand is feeling cold from cool water running across it. This new sensation can be a distraction from your pain.
Practice Deep Breathing
Perhaps one of the most well-known ways to distract yourself from pain is deep breathing. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then breathe out the pain slowly. For example, you could inhale while focusing on the word “soothe” and exhale while focusing on the word “pain.” Deep breathing works on two levels — it can help your body relax, and it can distract your mind from those nagging pain signals.
Try Mindful Meditation to Distract Yourself
Mindful meditation involves utilizing soothing imagery or sound to immerse yourself in a different environment. If done properly, you may be able to meditate your way to a place far from your pain. Consider pulling up soothing images on your TV or phone, then focusing on your breathing and the imagery. If your mind starts to wander back to the pain, refresh by changing the imagery.
Focus on Something You Enjoy
What are some enjoyable activities that could distract you from chronic pain? For some people, nature helps. Others find the most enjoyment in being with family or friends, or simply finding something that makes them laugh. Other activities that could temporarily distract you from pain include:
- Fun games on your phone that require a lot of focus
- Reading poetry
- Watching a good movie
- Listening to your favourite music
Dissect the Sensation of Chronic Pain
Pain can be hard to describe because it often involves a collaboration of sensations. Pins and needles, burning, and stabbing pains are commonly present together. Dissect the sensations you feel and focus on only the least bothersome sensation. For example, focusing on the lesser burning feeling can take your mind away from the more uncomfortable stabbing pain.
A psychological therapy technique, the idea of disassociation is to disconnect yourself from the pain you are feeling. It may seem a bit silly, but you could even imagine that whatever is causing pain is somewhere else. For example, if you are dealing with horrendous pain in your leg, you could envision your leg being detached and carried into another room. Another example of disassociation is imagining the pain as a separate entity and not part of your body. Take the pain, put it in a box, close the box, and get rid of it.