In a world where we are very much constantly connected it can be hard to disconnect and relax. But this is an important aspect of managing pain. When we are constantly on the go, we are continuously heightened to stimuli and potentially more receptive to the awareness of pain. By giving yourself time to relax and destress this can have positive impact on your overall wellbeing. Last week’s post was about pain management through using pacing and goal setting. You can find this article here. This week’s blog post is all about relaxation! So grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy your read!
There are lots of different ways in which you may chose to relax. For example some people chose to take a hot bath, watching TV, having a nice meal or perhaps doing some yoga. Breathing techniques can also be a very helpful way to relax. It is a good idea to practice these when the pain is manageable. This way they are easier to apply and come more naturally when you have a flare-up.
Deep breathing is a very simple technique. Stress activates a ‘fight or flight’ reaction resulting in shallow breathing. By taking long and slow breaths we can reduce the ‘fight or flight’ response.
When you are doing your breathing techniques make sure that you are sat in a comfortable environment, You can place one hand on your tummy and on your chest. Slowly breathe in through your nose and feel your tummy expand. Slowly exhale through your mouth making sure to exhale fully, feeling your tummy fall. Try to repeat this for around five minutes and reflect on how you feel after,
Mindfulness meditation is an old Eastern meditation practice with the aim of becoming an observer and focusing in on the present moment. This observational state allows for experiences, thoughts and beliefs to become reframed. There is no real high quality evidenced out there but a systematic review from 2013 (Hilton et al 2013) found that there is moderate quality evidence and a good trend for a small decrease in pain as well as improvement in quality of life and mood.
If you are interested in mindfulness meditations I have included some links at the end of the article. You can also read more about how to set yourself up for meditation here. You don’t necessarily need to practice meditation in order to be mindful. Setting a few minutes a side to just analyse your body and mind to really see how you feel, is also a form of mindfulness. Sitting down with a meal and really focusing in on each mouthful, the different textures and flavours is also a good method. This can be especially helpful if you normally just rush through your meals.
As a yoga instructor as well as a Physiotherapist, this topic really excites me! There is some evidence out there to suggest that yoga can be a helpful supplementation in persistent pain (Bussing et al, 2012, Wieland et al 2017). The available research is not of the best quality and further studies are required. At the moment it is unclear whether Yoga is better than other types of exercise or whether it should be used more as an adjunct to specific therapeutic exercise. Overall though there is positive evidence and it is a useful modality to include if it is something you are interested in and enjoy. Make sure to find a class suitable to you and an instructor who understands your needs.
I hope you will find some of these tips helpful and that applying some of these techniques can help you. If there is anything else you would like me to cover on this topic, please leave me comment below.
Resources and References
Büssing, A., Ostermann, T., Lüdtke, R., & Michalsen, A. (2012). Effects of yoga interventions on pain and pain-associated disability: a meta-analysis. The Journal of Pain, 13(1), 1-9.
Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., … & Maglione, M. A. (2016). Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199-213.
Wieland, L. S., Skoetz, N., Pilkington, K., Vempati, R., D’Adamo, C. R., & Berman, B. M. (2017). Yoga treatment for chronic non‐specific low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1).