Here are a few helpful ideas that may ease your pain
Exercising/ Pacing/ Breathing/ Stress & Relaxation/ Meditation/ Dealing with Flare-ups;
Deep breathing can be a very easy and convenient way of reducing pain levels by reducing tension and anxiety which may commonly exacerbate the intensity of pain recognition. Whenever the intake of air begins to become restricted, there will be an automatic increase in levels of anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure. If left unabated, distress or fear may develop which will lead to muscle tension. Making a conscious effort to take slow, deep controlled breaths from the diaphragm or abdominal area, a calming effect will start to occur in the body and a state of relaxation can be achieved.
Breathing exercises to try
Close your eyes, take a deep breath in through your nose keeping your mouth shut.
Allow your abdomen rather than your chest to distend as you inhale. It may help to rest your hand on your stomach, so that you can feel whether ot not your stomach rises or falls as you breathe.
As you slowly exhale focus your mind and your breath into the area of pain and imagine the breath gently streaming around the pain dissolving it away.
Keep repeating this exercise until you feel the pain subside and then focus on another area of pain and start again.
As with any form of exercise, it may take a bit of practice to be able to focus your mind on the pain and breathing,
Pacing can help to control both overactivity and underactivity allowing you to do more of what you want to do for more of the time.
The aim of pacing is to give you more command over your pain and minimize the variability of your pain. Effective pacing entails keeping your activity levels relatively constant throughout the day and across the week, ensuring that you stop regularly to avoid the pain from becoming too strong. Using this technique over a period of time it is possible to slowly become more active, both in kind of activity and the length of time spent.
The 3 P’s of Pacing
- Prioritise what needs to be done. Choose the most important activities to be done each day/week.
- Plan the week out, making sure you spread walking, sitting and standing activities out over the day.
- Pace yourself. Think little and often remembering to change position before the pain begins to increase. For example if you are standing try sitting or walking for a couple of minutes before returning to what you were doing.
Poor pacing of daily activities can also create a vicious cycle that may spiral out of control,
How does this story sound?
Jim has experienced low back pain for over ten years and is no longer able to work. One day he awakens feeling more comfortable – he had a good nights sleep for a change. The sun is shining and he decides to do some gardening. He works fairly solidly for nearly three hours taking very few breaks. He is delighted by what he has achieved but by the afternoon he is exhausted. He takes some painkillers and goes to bed. He sleeps fairly well but then finds he is unable to sleep at his normal time. He has a restless night and feels dreadful the next day. His pain is worse and remains so for the next three days: he can hardly do anything and falls into the familiar pain cycle.
Thankfully a week later he is feeling a little better and more refreshed. The sun is shining and he decides to go into the garden. He loves his gardening and it is bound to do him the power of good! And so he works away regardless of the time!
Learning to pace yourself calls for changes to habits which have become integrated into you life thus far. Be patient and tolerant with yourself, persevere and most of all keep a sense of humour along the way.
When living with unrelenting pain exercise could be the last thought on your mind. You may find that your pain is pretty much in control of what and how much you do. However, regular exercise is among the best medicines that people living with chronic pain have at their disposal and it can help you to regain control over your lifestyle.
Find a regular daily activity or exercise that suits your capabilities. Perhaps taking the dog for a walk, strolling around the garden or local park. If you are sensible and follow the recommendations of a professional, the balance between regular gentle exercise and less painful joints and muscles is possible.
How can exercise help with pain relief?
Experts suggest there may be 4 reasons why an increase in activity may have a pain-reducing effect.
- Improved sleep & rest.
- Release of tension.
- Strengthens the muscles around a site of injury
NB Before embarking on exercising an injury it is essential to seek professional guidance from a physiotherapist or other relevant healthcare professional rather than trying to go it alone.
Things to consider
- Exercise is more beneficial if it is an activity which you enjoy or which places you in an environment which is pleasurable.
- Activities which might be suitable could include walking, swimming, stationary cycling, yoga or t’ai chi.
- Exercise is just one of many tools that can be used being most helpful if used in conjunction with medication, a healthy diet, relaxation and positive thinking.
If you experience chronic pain, it is important to seek the advice of a healthcare professional to help you to manage it. Discuss any ideas you may have in relation to exercise with them and follow their advice. If an activity increases your pain levels, do not continue to do it without seeking further advice and guidance. Finding that your muscles are tired and slightly tender the day after is OK, but experiencing joint pain or sharp, stabbing pain during or after exercise or encountering a worsening in pain should prompt you to seek more advice as soon as possible.
Stress & Relaxation
With chronic pain we tend to tense up and the ability to relax is paramount yet it can become all but impossible. Tension increases the pain which then further increases stress and tension and so the cycle becomes self-perpetuating. However by learning and practicing deep relaxation exercises it is possible to overcome this. There are several ways of achieving effective relaxation and you will be able to decide for yourself which you find most effective.
Below are some methods which many people with chronic pain find beneficial.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Often the ability to release muscle tension when relaxing can be difficult to achieve, so this method uses a technique of progressively contracting and releasing each muscle group in the body, to enable you to recognise the difference between the relaxed and the tense state. This approach is very useful for beginners as it gives a real sensation of difference between the tense and the relaxed state. This knowledge can then be used during normal every day activities to reduce muscle tension.
Before practicing PMR, you should consult with your physician if you have a history of serious injuries, muscle spasms, or back problems, because the deliberate muscle tensing of the PMR procedure could exacerbate any of these pre-existing conditions.
If the action of tensing muscle groups in the Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercises aggravates your pain the autogenic relaxation technique may be more appropriate for you.
This technique works through self-suggestion, where you tell yourself (within your mind) something like ‘my right arm is heavy’ and you slowly keep repeating this until gradually your arm starts to feel heavy and relaxed. You then use the same approach to relax the rest of the body. During this relaxation technique you concentrate on the same major areas that the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method focuses upon.
Meditation is not expected to take the pain away, instead it can help lessen the negative chain of emotional responses we have to it. It can offer a new and constructive outlook on pain whereby the old habitual ways of thinking are no longer valuable.
Transformation of Thinking
If your life is dominated by pain, you are likely to be very aware of the physical sensations that go with it and will therefore argue that you do not have to meditate in order to draw awareness to it. Meditation brings to your awareness. Instead of responding unconsciously to the sensations of pain, you gain an insight into your normal and unconscious responses.
Typically, the normal reaction to pain involves feelings of lack of control and confused thought processes which the mind tends to feed upon to trigger thoughts that, “The pain is killing you ~ you will not be able to stand it any longer ~ your life is out of control.” Such thoughts become automatic negative responses that undermine your ability to choose how to react to the pain.
The aim of meditation is to arrive at the point where you can make a choice about the response to make. Your reaction to pain shifts from one of habit to one of choice. You can therefore control and determine better ways of reacting to the persistent sensations.