Mind Over Matter

While plenty of drugs are available to mask chronic pain, they often come with side effects. But science is beginning to understand the mind–body connection and what patients can do to control pain. Check out these techniques for soothing throbs:

  • Mental imagery: A Stanford University study confirmed that visualization can help patients curb pain. One woman increased then successfully decreased the intensity of her pain, represented by a flame on a computer monitor, by imagining water rinsing it away. Assign a tangible symbol to your aches and see a counter response — a fire being doused, a knotted rope becoming untangled, or daggers dissolving away.
  • Biofeedback: This process pinpoints triggers that intensify physical response and alterations to manage them. Aim to recognize movements and external factors like stress that influence your pain so you can identify where to make changes.
  • Meditation/hypnosis: Numerous studies show that emotional and mental states affect physical well–being. Contemplative exercises can reduce the tension that makes pain worse and redirect attention — like a pregnant woman concentrating on a focal point while in labor. Practice by listening for specific sounds such as a bird’s chirp, or examining the intricate details of a small object like a raisin or rock, all the while breathing with deliberation.

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