3 Relaxing Ways to Relieve Pain - Change the Chronic Pain Experience
One way to improve pain management skills is by using them; by experiencing pain is the best way to learn new treatments and strategies to give relief, holistic natural relief that doesn't involve medication or drugs.
First Pain Management Skill - Relaxation and Meditation
When I begin to talk about relaxation or breathing exercises some of you may roll your eyes saying, "I've tried that", "didn't work" or "what a waste of time that was"! Yes, it can be frustrating. Breathing techniques are sometimes given as an add-on to other more biomedical treatments, without being given sufficient time and attention.
Second Pain Management Technique - Heat Packs
Heat packs are widely used, for muscle aches and pain as well as visceral or internal pain management. Being brought up in England, before central heating, going to bed in the winter you needed a hot water bottle. The use of hot and cold therapy is used in many areas of physical treatment.
Enjoy the feel of muscles relaxing and releasing tension when gentle warmth penetrates into the painful area of your body.
A more modern way of relieving period pains and uterus cramps, rather than the hot water bottle I used to use.
Third Pain Management Skill - Release Negative Thoughts and Emotions
When we have constant pain, some times worse than others it can affect how we feel, how we think and especially impact on our emotions. Smiles and laughter can be blocked not allowing joy into our lives.
Suffering chronic pain makes it too easy to feel down, frustrated or angry - who wants to ingest these emotions every day - best to let them go. Like an unscheduled burp, better out than in!
As an example of chronic pain. I'll put a spotlight on persistent or recurring neck pain
You're not Alone with Chronic Neck Pain.
Neck pain is a commonplace condition with over 40% of people globally. Of those 14% suffer daily with chronic neck pain. Imagine how this can, not only impact quality-of-life but impact on how we function every day.
Muscle tension and pain reduce our range of motion (how far we can move our body in any particular way).
Ø Think of an evening out with friends.
Ø A meeting at work with a group of colleagues.
Ø Or just check in the traffic when driving your car.
Our Brains Remember (or learn) Pain and Tension
One reaction I see in clients with neck pain is a reduction in their ability to move their neck freely, this causes a body turn or turning their shoulders in an effort to look in a different direction.
Over time this retrains muscles to work as a 'clump' rather than move freely and independently where they move as a co-operating team. This change can be passed on to your brain. Our brain tells us how to move - but how we move trains our brains. So with time the neural messages may change keeping the 'clump', in fact reinforcing it!
How Did Your Chronic Neck Pain Start?
Neck pain problems often don't have a specific cause; it can be difficult to define when the pain actually began. Occupation, stress, anxiety and posture can all be a contributing factor where we adjust how we "hold" our bodies to get pain relief. This can be a two edged sword as we can get temporary relief but may cause a new tension to develop elsewhere in our body.
There is the opportunity to use or to integrate non-invasive, inexpensive and certainly well tolerated options that I'm sharing with you today, often overlooked in place of medications or physical therapy.
Two Pain Management Skills to practice and One Pain Management Technique to Use.
Here's Your First Chronic Pain Relief Idea
Remember to give enough time for relaxation techniques to manage your chronic pain and changes to happen.
I know relaxation can help chronic pain, personally proven by myself and by my clients many times. Several times in my life I've lived with chronic pain, pain that couldn't be cured or even relieved when the side effects of medication were unacceptable.
I'm sure some of you have also come to the same conclusion about medicines and pills, perhaps it's the reason you're reading this article.
What follows is an example and explanation of how breathing relaxation does provide you with skills to reduce pain levels and bring some needed change into your life.
Body Position for Relaxation and Meditation
Today it's lying down on your back, possibly on your bed or reclining chair but not a soggy sofa, as you need a supportive but comfortable place to lie down.
Another good idea is to be in a -
Ø Softly lit or dark surroundings
Ø Without your phone, computer or iPad in the room.
Head support is essential, and having as close to a neutral spine position as possible. At the same time ensuring your neck and head are well supported, because changes as we age are an important consideration. Generally our neck and head seem to move forward requiring more support under our heads, although this may not be needed for younger people.
In the pictures and video below I explain with the help of two mature people how you can find a "comfortable" position as shown in the illustrations. The addition of various thicknesses of books adds or reduces the height of your head. As you do this for yourself, you'll notice the need to make adjustments until you feel the point of support, comfort and then be ready to relax.
Lying down or sitting in a supportive chair is best for my relaxation sessions as relaxation for pain management needs you to be able to fully "let go" so releasing painful tense muscles.
This person is getting ready to do his relaxation. However his head is not fully supported.
Working with Charlie I put some books under his head until he could feel his head was supported and his neck felt comfortable.
When you do this for yourself, you can feel the difference between having nothing under your head. Older people may have a forward head posture that needs support.
Here is an example of putting too many books under his head. You will notice that his head is now too high.
He also made the comment that he was feeling that his breathing had been impacted.
You or who you're helping find relaxation position will know when it's right.
The above photographs show how you can find a position where your head feels comfortable. We are not looking to change your natural posture today, just support how you hold your body naturally.
Join Jean's Online Meditation & Relaxation
Here's Your Second Chronic Pain Relief Idea
Thermotherapy or Pain Relief Using Heat - Nothing New Been Around for Eons!
For thousands of years, heat has provided pain relief and has comforted us in times of need. However use of heat as an analgesic, as opposed to medication needs to be explored. Research found that heat could provide an avenue for self-treatment, providing pain relief and improve sensory function in patients suffering from chronic mechanical neck pain (Cramer, 2012).
Cramer compared two groups of people suffering chronic neck pain. One group used a heat pack for 20 minutes each day for 2 weeks, while another group didn't as they were acting as a control group.
Results showed the treatment group experienced relief for their chronic neck pain, also the majority of the group reported better health at the end of the experiment. Their daily diaries also noted a steady improvement throughout the two weeks. However as there was no follow up we don't know if gains remained when they stopped using heat packs.
Heat works to provide analgesia, or pain relief, and decreases muscle tension by increasing tissue temperature, blood flow, metabolism, and connective tissue extensibility as when a muscle is able to relax and lengthen.
Here's a Pain Story - with a happy ending
My Mission - To Relieve Neck And Occipital (back of head) Headache.
This happened to me one early morning?
Ø Today I woke at 5:30am
Ø Head pain was definitely hanging around - if left will get worse
Ø Heated my wheat pack
Ø Went back to bed - well it was only 5:30am
Ø Put heat pack on my pillow, under my neck
It's well known that heat or warmth can relieve pain (Chabal et al. 2020), especially musculoskeletal pain involving muscles and joints. Heat can also be used for visceral (internal) pain, such as for cramps and period pains.
My personal visceral pain is after a nephrectomy (kidney removal), including a partial rib removal leaving my upper right quadrant of my digestive system rather grumbly at times. This is perhaps due to scar tissue built up over the past 10 years so this is another place or my second wheat bag placement. I think this makes me feel better?
Wheat packs for Pain Relief
I gather up my wheat packs
Put my wheat packs in a pillow case
Keeps then clean
Can help holding place
Heat wheat packs in the microwave
Take myself back to bed or find a place to relax
Start my relaxed breathing as above
Often fall asleep as so comforting.
You may use one heat pack or more if you have other places on your body that enjoy the warmth and help relaxation.
That's Natural Pain Solutions in Action!
Here's Your Third Chronic Pain Relief Idea
Release Emotions with Exhale to Relax and De-stress - Improve Vagal Nerve Tone
The process of breathing - inhale and exhale is important in managing stress, anxiety and chronic pain. When doing meditation or relaxation you are paying attention to your breath, generally allowing your exhale to be longer. This can be very useful!
When I run my relaxation groups I demonstrate the option of releasing thoughts and emotions. This becomes a very individual process as all of the talk comes within you, rather than listening to my ideas and constantly listening to my voice.
Sometimes clients find it hard to understand that their emotions have and impact of the level of their chronic pain, its frequency and its severity. Therefore the questions I ask are:
Is your pain worse when you're stressed?
Is your pain worse when you are anxious?
Is your pain worse when you're angry or frustrated?
All of the reactions above are responses that involve emotions. Emotions cannot always be named but they can be felt.
Research has shown that positive thoughts, ideas and feelings such as happiness, optimism, gratitude, a sense of purpose together with life satisfaction and mindfulness are good for our health and prevention of disease. (Ke, 2023)
Unfortunately and totally understandably negative thoughts, or emotions such as angry, sadness or frustration can make chronic pain and anxiety worse, trapping us in a place that can be difficult to free ourselves.
Therefore the final skill that I'd like you to learn is to begin to use simple techniques to take care of yourself.
Ø Firstly begin to notice any negative thoughts or emotions,
Ø Then send them out into the atmosphere with your exhale, your next out breath.
Conclusion - Start your Own Self-Help Pain Relief
In this article you have a choice of three different activities for you to begin to take control of your chronic pain. Although the story in this article the focussed-on neck pain, these methods are suitable for almost any type of chronic pain or to feel great and are good for your health even if you don't have pain!
How we experience our many and varied emotions may also impact our health and wellness. Therefore the idea I have described and demonstrated in the video and elsewhere on the self-help resources may be worth a try.
Again as I mentioned on the relaxation and meditation above for some of you, change may happen within a day or two - I'm often told I put people to sleep! Try not taking on negative emotions, instead blowing them away on the wind!
"The physiological effects of heat therapy include pain relief and increases in blood flow, metabolism, and elasticity of connective tissues" (Malanga, 2015).
To begin doing pain management shouldn't be complicated, difficult or hard work. Most important thing is "not too try too hard". If I'm trying too hard, there's tension and effort. Rather have the intention to release and let got.
Don't be impatient, it takes time to release tight muscles or for neurological messages to change to begin the process of pain reduction.
Finally, I'd like to emphasise the clinical relevance of integrating noninvasive, inexpensive, and well-tolerated options into any pain management programme.
Natural Pain Solutions Provides Self-Help Skills for Pain Relief
Want to find simple effective ways to reduce your chronic pain without increasing your stress and overwhelm? This is where I can help! Ideas can be found in the articles on my website. You can sign-up to regular updates or spend time using some of the collection of self-help techniques. After over 20 years of having my own pain clinics pain clinics I started natural pain solutions to reach more people, rather than one person at a time. Therefore when I completed my postgraduate pain management studies I wanted to spread the word about holistic self-help techniques that people can use at home. Learn more about me here.
Charles Chabal, Peter J Dunbar, Ian Painter, Douglas Young & Darah C Chabal (2020) Properties of Thermal Analgesia in a Human Chronic Low Back Pain Model, Journal of Pain Research, 2083-2092
Holger Cramer, Christian Baumgarten, Kyung-Eun Choi, Romy Lauche, Felix Joyonto Saha, Frauke Musial, Gustav Dobos (2012). Thermotherapy self-treatment for neck pain relief—A randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Integrative Medicine. 4(4): e371-e378.
Gerard A. Malanga, Ning Yan & Jill Stark (2015) Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury, Postgraduate Medicine, 127:1, 57-65,
Geffen, S.J. (2003), 3: Rehabilitation principles for treating chronic musculoskeletal injuries. Medical Journal of Australia, 178: 238-242.
Glenn N. Levine, MD, FAHA, Chair, Beth E. Cohen, MD, MAS, Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, MHS, RN, Julie Fleury, PhD, Jeff C. Huffman, MD, Umair Khalid, MD, Darwin R. Labarthe, MD, MPH, PhD, FAHA, Helen Lavretsky, MD, Erin D. Michos, MD, MHS, Erica S. Spatz, MD, MHS, Laura D. Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, On behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; and Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health
Kubzansky LD, Huffman JC, Boehm JK, Hernandez R, Kim ES, Koga HK, Feig EH, Lloyd-Jones DM, Seligman MEP, Labarthe DR. Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Disease: JACC Health Promotion Series. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 Sep 18;72(12):1382-1396.
Ke, S., Guimond, A., Tworoger, S., Huang, T., Chan, A., Liu, Y., & Kubzansky, L. (2023). Gut feelings: Associations of emotions and emotion regulation with the gut microbiome in women. Psychological Medicine, 1-10.
Nadler SF, Weingand K, Kruse RJ. The physiologic basis and clinical applications of cryotherapy and thermotherapy for the pain practitioner. Pain Physician. 2004 Jul;7(3):395-9.
Ventriglia G, Gervasoni F, Franco M, Magni A, Panico G, Iolascon G. Musculoskeletal Pain Management and Thermotherapy: An Exploratory Analysis of Italian Physicians' Attitude, Beliefs, and Prescribing Habits. J Pain Res. 2023 May 11;16:1547-1557.