Five Ways to Ease Your Pain

Control pain by changing the way you experience it.

By Linda Rath

Physical, cognitive and behavioral changes are needed to improve chronic pain, and some pain clinics, like Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, Minnesota, and Cleveland Clinic’s Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program in Ohio, provide that kind of help. But the price of a three- or four-week outpatient program at one of these clinics can run as much as $40,000 and is rarely covered by insurance. Even programs that are less known can cost thousands. You can try these techniques on your own to ease pain by changing how you perceive it.

  • Notice how often you think and talk about pain or engage in pain behaviors, such as grimacing, sighing and clutching the painful area, like a sore back. These are normal, reflexive responses, but they often become habitual in chronic pain, reinforcing the brain’s notion that something is wrong. It takes a lot of hard work, but learning to control how you think, talk and act about pain is important to managing it. A tip from the Institute for Chronic Pain: When you catch yourself engaging in a pain behavior, take a deep breath and let your body relax for a minute or two. This gives you a sense of control because you’re choosing an action that serves you instead of reflexively doing something that doesn’t.

  • Pay attention to your emotions. If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression or both, ask your doctor for a referral to a cognitive behavioral therapist. This type of therapy can help you recognize and change negative thoughts and behaviors, often in just a few sessions, and your insurance may cover it.
  • Emphasize exercise. Chronic pain patients often stop moving because they’re afraid it will cause more pain. A gradual return to activity can make you less fearful and help you re-engage with things that give your life value and meaning, says Sperry.
  • Meditate. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation – quiet, nonjudgmental attention in the present moment – significantly relieves pain by rerouting normal pain pathways.
  • Remember your goal. It may not be possible to be completely free of chronic pain, but you have the power to change how you perceive it. And that can change how you live your life.

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