Chronic back pain can be one of the most frustrating conditions to deal with. It affects every posture (laying, seated, standing) and every movement (especially walking and lifting). Chronic back pain can wear you down and make you irritable and more sensitive to other stimuli and create an almost hopeless state of mind. So managing your back pain not only do you need to address the physical but also the mental aspects of pain management. Here are 10 tips for addressing the mental side of pain management.
- Positive imagery – Focus your attention on a pleasant place, like the beach, mountains, etc.
- Symbolic imagery – Envision a symbol that represents your chronic pain, such as a loud, irritating noise or a painfully bright light bulb. Gradually reduce the irritating qualities of this symbol, for example dim the light or reduce the volume of the noise, thereby reducing the pain.
- Transfer – Use your mind to produce altered sensations, such as heat, cold, anesthetic, in a non-painful hand, and then place the hand on the painful area. Envision transferring this pleasant, altered sensation into the painful area.
- Pain Movement – Move chronic back pain from one area of your body to another, where the pain is easier to cope with. For example, mentally move your chronic back pain slowly into your hand, or even out of your hand into the air.
- Dissociation – As the name implies, this chronic pain technique involves mentally separating the painful body part from the rest of the body, or imagining the body and mind as separate, with the chronic pain distant from one’s mind. For example, imagine your painful lower back sitting on a chair across the room and tell it to stay sitting there, far away from your mind.
- Alter your focus – This is a favorite technique for demonstrating how powerfully the mind can alter sensations in the body. Focus your attention on any specific non-painful part of the body (hand, foot, etc.) and alter sensation in that part of the body. For example, imagine your hand warming up. This will take the mind away from focusing on the source of your pain, such as your back pain.
- Sensory splitting – This technique involves dividing the sensation (pain, burning, pins and needles) into separate parts. For example, if back pain feels hot to you, focus just on the sensation of the heat and not on the hurting.
- Mental anesthesia – This involves imagining an injection of numbing anesthetic (like Novocain) into the painful area, such as imagining a numbing solution being injected into your low back. Similarly, you may then wish to imagine a soothing and cooling ice pack being placed onto the area of pain.
- Mental analgesia – Building on the mental anesthesia concept, this technique involves imagining an injection of a strong pain-killer, such as morphine, into the painful area. Alternatively, you can imagine your brain producing massive amount of endorphins, the natural pain relieving substance of the body, and having them flow to the painful parts of your body.
- Counting – Silent counting is a good way to deal with painful episodes. You might count breaths, count holes in an acoustic ceiling, count floor tiles, or simply conjure up mental images and count them.
Try some of these mental exercises, they will take practice but can help you limit the intensity of the pain you are feeling.