As we say goodbye to National Pain Awareness month, and hello to Fall, we’d like to offer some helpful tips for putting your aches to rest. “Pushing through the pain” is a highly misguided piece of advice. Don’t stand for it with your hands tied; read below for 4 tips to combating your persistently caustic aches and pains.
But, first, on another note and in light of National Pain Awareness Month, our team would like to commemorate Dr. Howard Popp and highlight his outstanding work as our very own Interventional Pain Specialist.
Pain Relief Tips
“No pain… no gain.” This is the kind of advice that would be offered by someone who has likely never suffered from chronic pain. Pushing through the pain may work for some, but the Surgery Center at Doral understands that everyone must find what is right for their own body and unique pains. That being said, we hope you find a balance between these techniques and your doctor’s orders.
1. FOCUS ON THE SENSATION.
What sensation is your chronic pain causing? Is it a burning sensation? Is the area throbbing or tingling? Does it feel hot or cold? Does the pain come and go in waves? Categorizing your pain as such is called “sensory splitting.” Determining whether this “chronic” pain is truly permanent or a constant change of different sensations is key to understanding and fighting your pain.
When you divide the sensations in this way, pain seems more temporary, and becomes less of “a thing.” Doing this relieves the stressful thoughts such as, “this pain will never go away,” because it will feel less chronic. Psychologically changing the way one thinks, such as dropping the word “pain” and accepting these sensations as arising and passing experiences in the body, can help one cope with it and reveal the impermanent nature of this so-called “pain.”
Part of changing your mindset toward your pain involves changing your attitude. Try feeling kindness towards the sensations, even though they are unpleasant. Your body doesn’t want you suffering any more than you do. Thus, treat yourself as you would a child in pain.
2. DETER YOUR ATTENTION FROM THE “PAIN.”
It’s hard to focus on anything else when your body is in excruciating pain. With the right amount of persistence, however, you can manage to switch your attention to a pain-free part of your body. If/when your back hurts, think about your toes, face, chest, etc. Relax into the pain-free sensation you are feeling within that part of your body and allow it to be the dominant sensation. Remember, your body is more than the pain it feels.
You can take this strategy a step further by actually engaging with your pain-free spots. Move around. If your toes don’t hurt, watch them wiggling around. If your arms don’t hurt, swing them around like a chimpanzee or use them to imitate a ballerina; who knew playing pretend could soothe pain? Embrace the child in you. Enjoy the rest of your body when you’re unable to enjoy the parts that are in pain.
3. EMBRACE OTHER EXTERNAL SENSATIONS.
Ignore the Pain
Forget the painful sensations coming from your body, and embrace the external ones coming from the present moment. Find as many distractions as possible – open a window and feel the sun shining through, listen to the sounds of cars, think of them as a representation of our collective industrial success, obsess over what you’ll have for dinner, listen to the humming of your air conditioner, breath in the odor of your fresh mug of coffee, feel the soft wisp of your hair lightly grazing your cheek, or simply sitting down to relax and enjoy binge-watching your favorite show. You get the point. Stay distracted as much as possible! Being attentive toward as many sensory inputs as possible eases your pain and relegates it to just one of the many sensory experiences happening in your life.
4. USE YOUR IMAGINATION.
Imagery can be another great distraction. Think about a time in your past when you were completely pain-free. Or think about your favorite place to be. Think about your dream vacation spot. Picture the waves crashing as you lie on the shore. Feel the warmth of the sun against your face and the soft breeze against your skin as you let the sand delicately trickle through your fingers. Use your imagination to transport yourself to a painless place. Taking your mind off pain relaxes the body, including the pain site, and reduces your overall stress.
Written for The Surgery Center at Doral