Pain? Manage and Reduce It

Oh! Ouch! to Ah, it’s Ok

How to handle expected pain (from arthritis, a needle stick, or dental procedure) without excess pain, tension, or anxiety.

Good morning. Here I am with some thoughts on pain.

This is because of my arthritic knees, which get stiff if I am sitting, cannot tolerate small spaces (remind me to tell you about the time I almost couldn’t get out of the back seat of a taxi), and they don’t like stairs.

I don’t want to take a lot of medicine, but I want to enjoy life. So today I am going to review a few things that I find helpful. I hope these will help you.

The methods that I use are:

Breathe.

Channel someone who did not look like he or she was in pain.

Use relaxing imagery.

My story (or, Oh my arthritic knees!)

I am standing at the top of some stairs, and I want to go down. Or, I have to lift something and it will hurt my back. Or I have to stand up from a seated position, and it will hurt my knees.

Sound familiar?

I want you to try a little experiment.

Sit in a chair, any chair.

  1.  Breathe in, and hold your breath.

          Stand up. How was that?

Sit down again.

    2.  Breathe in, and focusing on your breath, breathe out. Continue to breathe, in and out.

         Still breathing, stand up.

Which one was easier? I bet the second.

That is because breathing regularly induces relaxation, concentrating on our breathing keeps us relaxed and distracts us from any expectation of pain.

Are you in pain?

In pain

In pain

So many of us are.

Here are some methods that will make life easier for you.

  1. Breathe steadily and regularly and concentrate on your breathing, while you perform the difficult act.
  2. Visualize someone who you admire moving strongly and gracefully while they experience the uncomfortable act. Channel that person.
  3. Visualize a peaceful and beautiful place. Think about this while you experience the uncomfortable act.

All of these can be used together if you want. The first method, breathing, is the most important.

Why does this work?

When you are using your breathing, you are using relaxation, distraction, and sometimes, imagery, all together.

An Example:

Let’s go through the experience that is a problem for you:

I will use walking down the stairs as an example, but you can use a needle stick, a dental procedure or anything else that is a problem for you.

Think about the experience. If I am at the top of the stairs, I can experience the tension, and the anticipation of pain, and awkwardness.

So I start to breathe, and I will notice more relaxation throughout my body. I continue to concentrate on my breathing, (therefore I am not thinking about the difficulty.) I start down the stairs, and I visualize a favorite movie star who moves with such grace and confidence. I want to incorporate her grace and confidence.

A young woman, running or dancing.

Success, feeling good!

At the bottom of the stairs, I congratulate myself for the success. (Not perfection, I congratulate the improvement.)

If you are facing something done to you by someone else, such as a needle stick, start breathing, and then think about being someplace else, someplace relaxing and pleasant, such as a vacation scene, or floating in water, or being near a waterfall. You can draw from your own experience.

If you want to have some fun while learning this technique, do the opposite for a little while, just for fun. If something is difficult, how can you let people know that you are suffering? Walk down the steps and yell at each step; get up from a chair and groan each time you do it, wince, grit your teeth, and yell when you think about getting a needle.

OK, did these things make you feel better?

No? These are called “pain behaviors”. They might feel natural. But they don’t really help.

Remember: to help yourself:

  1. Take a breath in and out.
  2. Continue to breathe and attend to your breathing.
  3. Start the activity that is difficult.
  4. Use visualization of someone doing it gracefully and easily.
  5. Or use visualization to take you someplace relaxing.
  6. Congratulate yourself on your successful action.

Please share your own experiences in the comments section below. I want to know how this helps you, and what other techniques have worked for you.

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