For those who suffer from chronic pain, finding relief can be a struggle. Whether it’s in the back, in the joints, or widespread due to fibromyalgia, long-term pain can be a distraction at best and a debilitation at worst.
Every case of chronic pain is unique to each person’s body, so consulting a healthcare professional is important. However, if you need additional support, here are a number of other ways.
Touching loved ones
Something as simple as a warm hug may lessen pain. An Israeli study for Scientific Reports found that adults who touched their partners reported feeling less pain than participants who were solo. The study also reported their breathing synchronized when they made skin-to-skin contact while experiencing pain. Holding hands may slow your breathing to match your partner’s calmer breathing rate.
Research published in the Cochrane Systematic review recommends practicing “kangaroo care” for parents, which suggests holding children close to the chest to relieve pain.
Many chronic pain sufferers rub their sore spots instinctively. As it turns out, their instincts may be right. A study in Annals of Internal Medicine wrote participants who sought massage therapy “had less pain and were better able to perform daily activities after 10 weeks.”
A professional massage from a trained therapist will be able to target points of tension. If you don’t have the means to seek a good massage therapist, you can still lessen some pain on your own. Foam rolling, tennis balls, and other self-massage tools can be just as effective at home.
Those with busy schedules may not feel like they have time to deviate from their work and home lives, especially if chronic pain slows their activity. However, allocating time for meditation eases muscle tension, according to Eric L. Garland, Ph.D. Muscle tension can cause several types of chronic pain.
If you’re new to meditation, try finding a quiet room with no distractions. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths from your belly. Shift your focus from your daily stressors to your breathing. You can even try repeating a word or phrase (“mantra”) to block out other thoughts.
If you’re really struggling to redirect your mind’s focus, perhaps you can take it a step further. Chronic pain sufferers who underwent hypnosis also reported fewer pain symptoms, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Even though the brain still sends signals to the points of pain, hypnosis can distract the brain so you don’t register your pain.
Putting on headphones and turning up your music player might be an effective way to ease pain. Whether you’re a fan of hard rock, light pop, or heavy metal, listening to any music that you enjoy can trigger the release of opioids in the brain that mimic pain medication, according to Line Gebauer of the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience. Otherwise, music can simply distract us from focusing on pain.