Many people that we talked to had used some sort of relaxation technique such as ‘progressive muscle relaxation’ or ‘abdominal breathing’ to manage their pain. Others used relaxation with a technique of distracting themselves known as ‘visualisation’.
Some people used a combination of these techniques. Relaxation was thought to help reduce stress and muscle tension which could make the pain worse. One man had been taught relaxation and visualisation on a pain management programme. He explained that they are also thought to help release natural pain-relieving chemicals into the brain.
Finds that deep breathing and relaxation reduce the stress and tension that can increase the pain.
Was told on the pain management programme that relaxation and exercise produce natural pain…
Some people had been taught how to think about or ‘visualise’ their pain as something that they could reduce or put away for example, putting the pain in a box, dimming a bright light or watching a hot sunset. One woman described visualising putting the pain from her thumb behind a glass screen and was surprised when it worked.
Was sceptical about visualisation but tried it and was surprised to find it helped relieve the…
Others found it helped to visualise a relaxing experience such as walking along a beach or sitting by a waterfall. Some people listened to relaxation tracks to help them with the visualisation, which they found helpful. Although one woman pointed out that to get the most benefit you had to use them regularly.
A few people found visualisation difficult but had found that a technique called ‘progressive muscle relaxation’ helped. Others had not found specific relaxation methods helpful and preferred to relax by listening to music, watching the television, or reading a book. These were also good methods of distraction.
Finds guided visualisation difficult and prefers to use progressive muscle relaxation.
Being able to distract the mind away from the pain by immersing themselves in another activity was a valuable self-management skill for some people who had taken up a new hobby such as woodwork or sewing which they found a good distraction. Others found it helpful to concentrate on a piece of work or solving a problem. Day to day activity such as spending time with the family, thinking about grandchildren, or even driving could be a good distraction technique.
Has taken up cross-stitch and finds that this and her grandson a good distraction from the pain.
Many people pointed out that although it is good to hear what works for others, not all techniques of distraction and relaxation suit everybody and it is important for each person to find out for themselves what is most helpful.
Relaxes by flooding his mind with a colour and distracts his mind from the pain by solving…
Since these interviews were recorded, techniques such as ‘mindfulness’ are increasingly used to help with chronic pain. The aim in mindfulness is to be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body, and the world around you. The idea is that this can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges. Mindfulness combines various meditation practices (including a method called ‘body scan’) with modified yoga exercises and mind-body education (a form of tai chi) which all emphasise awareness of breathing techniques and relaxation.