5 April 2019
We all know what pain feels like. For most of us, we know what caused it. We have a sharp or dull uncomfortable feeling that goes after a while. For those who experience chronic pain though, it is inconsistent, comes and goes without warning and may not be able to be traced to any one cause.
Chronic pain is pain which persists or recurs for more than three months. It is now recognised as a condition in its own right. If this is you, you are not alone. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2016 discovered that 43% of the population experience chronic pain. 14.3% describe themselves as living with moderately or severely disabling chronic pain. Being in pain can affect all areas of life, making it difficult to cope. People in chronic pain can end up feeling helpless and as if nothing can help.
There is help available though. There is a body of evidence demonstrating hypnotherapy as an effective treatment for the management of chronic pain.
We can all recognise the mind-body connection when it comes to pain. Many of us will have seen a child fall and hurt themselves and run to their parents crying. The parent will “kiss it better”, telling their child “you are all better now”. With this suggestion, the child immediately forgets about the pain and runs off to play again.
Hypnotherapy for chronic pain works in a way unique to each individual. Treatment is designed around the wishes and needs of the client. When I work with people with chronic pain, we work together to change the thoughts, feelings and actions that reinforce pain and feelings of helplessness. I take care to always work at the client’s pace. My approach involves taking time to support clients to develop the skills they need to make changes. I teach ways to manage anxiety, emotions and physical symptoms so clients feel they can manage their pain and focus on doing the things they value.
I teach you how to use self-hypnosis to take control of your pain management outside the treatment room. I use a toolbox of techniques including learning how to turn your pain up and down using an imaginary dial; harnessing your imagination to distract yourself; teaching you to move the pain around your body or visualise it turning to numbness, a colour or shape, which then becomes pleasantly warm or cool. Relaxation is often an important part of the treatment, especially if you tend to tense your muscles as a way of coping. I spend time working with clients on ways of managing their stress levels as stress and anxiety often make pain worse.
Our thoughts play an important role in how we experience pain. Understanding how you react to other people or situations and how that affects your pain can help provide the key to managing it. Learning to deal with your emotions about your pain can help to reduce the pain itself. Keeping a diary to get a clear picture of the extent of the pain, its triggers and effects can help to develop a strategy for managing it. Living with pain is not easy and I work with you to give yourself credit for each positive step you take.
Techniques based on mindfulness can help you to manage chronic pain, illness and fatigue in daily life. Mindfulness helps you to learn to live in the present moment and use your breath to cope with your experience of chronic pain. Concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply helps you to feel more in control and relaxed.
You learn to respond to your chronic pain rather than fighting against it and cultivate an attitude of kindness towards yourself.
Try these tips to help you with pain.
Learning to breath deeply can help to manage pain. Try this technique to help you. Breathe slowly into you abdomen while you count to 7. Hold for the count of 2. Exhale for the count of 11. Hold for the count of 2. Now breathe in for the count of 7 again and continue with the cycle.
Practice this for a few minutes each day until you have the hang of it. Then try using it when you experience pain. For more on breathing techniques check out how to relax in five minutes.
Pain can make you feel as if your body is your enemy. Learning to understand your body can help you to reduce anxiety about your pain what is going on in your body. Try practicing passively observing your body and its actions without thinking in terms of “good,” “bad,” “comfortable or “painful.” You can think of it like being a scientist investigating yourself. The aim is to be interested in observing, understanding, and accepting your body exactly as it is.
This non-judgmental awareness towards your body encourages self-acceptance and has been shown to reduce the experience of pain.
Knowing what you value provides direction. Once your values are clear, you can focus your time and attention on what is important to you. Try this exercise to help clarify your values.
Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and relax. Pretend you are in a favourite place where you feel totally at ease. Now imagine you are ninety year old and you have lived a long and full life. What did you most enjoy experiencing and doing? What did you most appreciate accomplishing or having? Write down your answers. Now relax and take yourself back to your favourite place again. This time you are your own age. Imagine you have a rare illness that has no symptoms but you will only have six months left to live. What do you want to experience in that time? What do you want to change, do, and have now? Write your answers. Now compare the two sets of answers. Take both lists and order your values from the most to the least important. Now look at what you have stopped doing. Pick one thing you value that you could start to do.
Learn to relax and clear your mind. Find a comfortable place to sit. Now, try to think about something relaxing such as being on a beach looking at the ocean, or going for a long, leisurely walk in the countryside. Picture it in your mind, including what you would see, hear and smell. Use your imagination to feel what it would be like to be there. Try and focus on your breathing to deepen your relaxation. Breathe in through the nose and slowly exhale. Try and make your out breath last longer than the in breath.
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