Relaxation and Chronic Pain
Chronic Pain – The Basics
Chronic pain is defined as a pain that lasts for 6 months or longer. It is typically defined as a pain that persists for more than the expected course of natural healing of a specific injury or disease.
When an individual is inflicted with chronic pain, he tends to develop a muscular tension, which increases the pain. It eventually develops into a viscous cycle with the muscular tension further leading to pain, which in turn causes stress and tension.
Today, chronic pain is being recognized as a global issue, with the World Health Organization supporting the efforts to relieve pain for all humanity.
As per a report released by a panel of physicians at the National Institutes of Health, relaxation techniques are highly useful for management of chronic pain. In addition, hypnotic techniques have also been found quite effective in management of cancer pain, temporal-mandibular disorders, tension headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.
Research reports reveal that more than a whopping 34 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Though a majority of them are partially disabled owing to the pain, yet there is a small section that remains permanently disabled because of chronic pain.
Statistics also indicate that over $40 billion is spent annually in the U.S. on treatments and over 25% of all the sick days are taken because of pain.
Chronic Pain and Relaxation
Relaxation is defined as a practice of concentrated and slow breathing done in order to release tension from muscles and relieve pain.
The modern theory on chronic pain suggests that it is not merely a sensation like vision or touch and is instead, strongly influenced by the ways in which the brain processes the pain signal.
According to the International Association for the Study of Pain’s definition, pain is always subjective and is defined by the person who experiences it. Hence, it is also evident that the brain can also learn how to manage the sensation of pain. Relaxation is one of the most important non-clinical techniques for this purpose. Use of relaxation techniques for chronic pain makes the patient less dependent on painkillers and more empowered to control the pain and related effects.
Hypnotherapy is a psychological technique of relaxation used for medical and other therapeutic purposes.
The main role of hypnotherapy in pain management is to induce deep relaxation for the reduction of fear, tension and anxiety, which is concomitant with pain.
There is significant evidence that a change in brain activity that mitigates pain sensations takes place in the process. Here we list some of the key benefits associated with the use of hypnotherapy.
- The effected individual begins to regain a sense of control over his/her well-being.
- The patient requires a less amount of medication, thereby reducing the scope of side effects considerably.
- Patients are able to learn self-hypnosis independently and successfully alleviate their pain.
- Overall confidence enables the patients to take charge over their own health and mind-sets.
Snoezelen for Relaxation
Snoezelen is a sensory environment purported to produce relaxation in a non-clinical setting, originally developed in Netherlands in the 1970s.
There is a definite set of factors associated with the use of Snoezelen. Here we list the key factors:
- Pain management
- Reduction in anxiety
- Managing depression
- Learn coping techniques
- Learning self-efficacy
- Handling disabilities
Experts indicate Snoezelen to be an equally effective method for inducing relaxation for management of pain as in the traditional clinical settings.
Other relaxation techniques for management of chronic pain include:
Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) is a type of relaxation technique in which the patient is kept in a buoyant liquid kept at skin surface temperature in a soundproof, light-free enclosure to induce deep states of relaxation and assist in the relaxation training process.
This technique of relaxation uses the simple but powerful method of Signal Breath to help the patients cope with intense episodes of pain.
This kind of relaxation technique requires a specific schedule of exercise and meditation. It involves directing the mind in a passive and non-effortful manner to particular objects, physical or mental, which are conducive to deep relaxation.
Self-regulation (Biofeedback) is another important and successful technique of relaxation for the management of chronic pain.
In addition, customized functional relaxation programmes are also available from professionals for varying durations.