There are individuals who successfully get additional relief from pain without taking medication. They use a number of different methods. Some use relaxation; others find success with skin stimulation, distraction as well as imagery. Using the services of a health professional may be necessary before you can do these on your own. Some of these methods work better if done with friends and family members. It’s also possible for these techniques to be effective when used with pain medication.
Please note: This page provides general information about potential ways to relieve chronic pain without traditional medication and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before implementing any technique into your pain management regimen.
Why Is Relaxation Effective?
When a person uses relaxation, their pain is relieved or kept from becoming worse by decreasing the tension in their muscles. This method can help you get to sleep, provide you with more energy, decrease your feeling of being tired, lower your anxiety as well as help other methods of pain relief be more effective. Many individuals discover that when taking medication for pain, or using hot or cold packs, works quicker and is more effective when they relax
What Are The Basic Guidelines For Using Relaxation Techniques?
It’s important to realize your ability to relax will be different at different times. Relaxation is not something that can be forced. You need to understand it may take you as long as two weeks of practicing relaxation techniques to experience the first results. You should try different relaxation methods to discover one that works best for you. Keep doing the same method. This way it will become routine and easier for you. It’s recommended you do it on a regular basis between five and ten minutes twice a day.
You should check your level of tension during the day. Notice if you have tightness in any part of your body from head to toe. Try and relax any of your muscles that are tense. You may be able to accomplish this by using quick techniques such as inhale then being tense followed by exhaling and relaxing. If you have medical issues with your lungs, check with your physician prior to performing any relaxation techniques that involve deep breathing.
Should I be in Any Special Position when Doing Relaxation Exercises?
When doing relaxation exercises, you can be sitting up or laying down. When possible, do them in a quiet place. Make certain not to cross your arms and legs. Doing this may restrict circulation and cause tingling or numbness. When you choose to lay down, it’s important to make certain you’re comfortable. Place a small pillow underneath your neck, knees or utilize a low stool to provide support for you lower legs.
How Should I Utilize Relaxation?
There are a number of methods. Here are a few that may work for you
Rhythmic and Visual Concentration Massage
With this method, you could open your eyes and focus on a single object. You can also close your eyes and imagine a calm, peaceful scene. Take the palm of your hand and gently massage the area where you’re experiencing pain in a circular, firm manner. Do not do this on areas that are swollen, tender, red or raw. You may experience more success doing this if you ask a friend or family member to do the massaging for you.
Inhale and Exhale Relaxation Method
Start this relaxation method by breathing in deeply. While doing this, it’s important to tense your muscles or a group of muscles. One way of doing this is to squeeze your eyes shut and then frown. Clench your teeth and then make a fist as well as stiffen your legs and arms. You could also draw up your legs and arms as tightly as is comfortable for you. After this is done, hold your breath and maintain the tension in your muscles for a few seconds. Then let go by breathing out and letting your body go limp.
Slow Rhythmic Breathing
When using this relaxation method, you start by staring at an object. You could also close your eyes and focus on your breathing or a peaceful image. The next step is to take a slow, deep breath. When you breathe try to make your muscles (like your arms) tense. Then breath out, relax and feel the tension leaving your body. While you are relaxed, start breathing slowly and comfortably. Focus on your breathing and take about 9 to 12 breaths each minute. Don’t breath too deeply. It’s important to maintain a slow and even rhythm as you breath out. To accomplish this, you can quietly say to yourself “In, one, two; out, one, two.” Having someone count out loud may help you when you start. Should you feel out of breath, simply take a deep breath. Then resume the slow breathing exercise. When you breathe out, try to feel yourself relax and go limp. If some of your muscles are not relaxing, such as your shoulders, make them tense as you breathe in and then make them relax when you breathe out.
This method needs only to be used once or twice for each of your muscle groups. Continue doing the slow, rhythmic breathing method for a few seconds at a time. You can do this for as long as ten minutes. The amount of time will be determined by your need. To end the slow, rhythmic breathing method, begin counting slowly and silently from one to three. Then open your eyes and silently say to yourself “I feel alert and relaxed.” You can start moving around but do it slowly at first.
Additional Relaxation Methods That Can Be Added To Slow Rhythmic Breathing
There are additional relaxation techniques that can accompany slow rhythmic breathing. Keep reading to learn more about these suggestions:
This method can start by listening to slow, familiar music using a headset or earphone. The goal is the progressive relaxation of your body parts. Once you are breathing comfortable and slowly, it’s time to relax various parts of your body. Begin with your feet and then move up to your head. This is a time to think of words like limp, warm, heavy as well as floating. When you breathe out, focus on a specific part of your body and feel it relaxing. Imagine all of the tension you’re feeling just drain from that area of your body. When some people breathe out, they can feel their ankles relaxing, and the next time they breathe out, they feel their calves as well as knees relaxing all the way up their body.
You can ask your physician or nurse for a recommendation about the most effective relaxation tapes available commercially. Most of these tape recordings have step-by-step instructions when it comes to relaxation techniques.
Imagery and How It Work
Imagery is a way you can use your imagination to create mental pictures or circumstances. The reason imagery is able to help relieve pain is not completely understood. You can think of imagery as a deliberate daydream designed to utilize all of your senses such as taste, sight, smell, hearing and touch. There are some individuals who think of imagery as a type of self-hypnosis. Experts agree that there are specific images that can reduce your pain during imagery and for hours following the experience. If your situation requires you to stay in bed or prevents you from going out of the house, imagery may help. It could decrease feelings of being closed-in by helping you to imagine visiting your favorite places in your mind. Imagery has the potential to help you relax as well as relieve boredom, reduce anxiety and even help you sleep better.
Using the Imagery Technique
When imagery is used for pain relief, it is usually done as a person’s eyes are closed. The image you focus on could be something such as a ball of healing energy or a picture drawn in your mind of you as someone with no pain. You could imagine cutting the wires responsible for transmitting pain signals from different parts of your body to your brain.The following is an exercise with the ball of energy considered the first image.
- Start by closing your eyes. Then begin breathing slowly and feel your body relaxing.
- Focus on your breathing. Slowly and easily breath from your abdomen.
- As you are breathing speak to yourself silently and slowly and say “In, one, two.” When you breathe out, say: “Out, one, two.”.
- Spend a few minutes breathing in this slow rhythm.
- Imagine the ball of healing. It is forming energy in your chest and lungs. The ball of healing is a white light. It may be vague. It’s not necessary for it to be vivid.
- Imagine the ball of light being created and taking shape.
- When you feel ready, imagine the air you are taking into your lungs blowing the ball of white light energy to the area of your body feeling pain. Once the ball is there, it then heals and relaxes you.
- As you exhale, imagine the air is blowing the ball of white light energy away from your body. As the ball leaves, it is taking your pain with it. It’s important for you not to blow as you breath out. You need to exhale naturally.
When you are ready, you can end the imagery. You need to count slowly to three and breathe deeply. Then open your eyes and say to yourself “I feel alert and relaxed.” You can now begin moving but do it slowly.
What Is Distraction? How Does It Work?
Distraction is a technique of focusing your attention on something other than your pain. Many people use this technique and may not realize it. People are using distraction when they watch television or listen to the radio with a goal of getting their minds off their pain. Distraction may be more effective than medication if the pain is sudden, intense or brief. This means is lasts less than 45 minutes.
Distraction is a technique you can use when waiting for pain medication to take effect. If you experience mild pain, you might be able to successfully distract yourself from it. There are people who believe if someone can be distracted from pain, their pain is not that severe. This is not always true. Distraction is an effective technique that can be used as a way to temporarily relieve even the most intense pain a person is feeling.
How Can Distraction Be Used
Any type of activity that requires your attention can be effectively used for distraction. If you enjoy working with your hands and doing such things as needlework, painting, model building, they may be effective activities for distraction. It’s also possible for you to become involved with a good book to distract your mind from the pain. Other effective methods of distraction include watching television, going to a movie theater and more. It’s possible to use slow, rhythmic breathing for distraction as well as relaxation.
You may find it effective to listen to music with a fast beat while wearing earphones or a headset. This will help you maintain your attention on the music You can tap out the rhythm. You may want to adjust the volume of the music to match the intensity of your pain. You can make it louder for more severe pain. This is a technique that doesn’t require much of your energy. It may be very useful when you’re feeling tired.
Are There Drawbacks To Using Distraction?
Some people have claimed they felt tired, irritable and had more pain after using the distraction technique. Some individuals have discovered other people doubt their feeling pain if distraction is effective in providing them with relief. If you experience these problems, you may not want to use the distraction technique. You many also just need to be careful about which distraction techniques you use and when you use them.
What Is Skin Stimulation? How Can It Relieve Pain?
Skin stimulation is a technique of using friction, pressure as well as chemical substances or temperature change to excite nerve endings located in your skin. Scientific researchers believe the same nerve pathways in a person’s body are used to transmit sensations such as heat, cold, pain as well as pressure to the brain. When a person’s skin is stimulated, and the sensation experienced is cold, warmth or pressure, the sensations of pain decrease significantly or are blocked. Skin stimulation also changes the flow of blood to the place on the body that’s affected.
There are times when skin stimulation will eliminate the pain or significantly decrease the pain. It can remain decreased for hours after the technique is finished. If you’re having radiation therapy, you should speak with your physician or nurse prior to trying skin stimulation. Ointments, liniments or salves should not be applied to the area being treated with radiation. You should also not use extreme cold or heat on the treated areas.
Where is Skin Stimulation Performed?
Skin stimulation can be done at or near the area of the body experiencing pain. It’s also possible to use skin stimulation on the opposite side of the body where the pain is located. You may have success by stimulating your right knee to reduce the pain felt in your left knee. Stimulating your skin in places away from the pain area may increase your relaxation and relieve your pain.
What Is Used For Stimulating The Skin?
Menthol preparations, massage, cold, heat, and vibration, can all be used for the skin stimulation technique.
How Can Massage Be Used For Pain Relief?
Massage can be very effective for pain relief when slow and steady circular motions are used. You can carefully massage over or near the affected area with your bare hands. You may also use any substance that feels good to you. This could include warm oil, talcum powder, and even hand lotion. Be careful when it comes to where the pain is located on your body. You may want to ask a friend or family member to provide you with a massage.
When someone gives you a back rub or a foot rub, it can be very relaxing and help to relieve your pain. Some people feel brushing or lightly stroking an area of pain is more comforting that a deep massage. It’s important you use whatever massage technique feels best. Realize that if you’re having any type of radiation therapy, you should avoid massaging the radiation treatment area.
How Can I Use Pressure?
With this technique, pressure is applied using your hand, heel of your hand, your fingertips or knuckles as well as the ball of your thumb. It can also be applied by using one or both of your hands to encircle your leg or even arm. You can test this method by applying pressure for about tens seconds over or near your pain area.
You can also feel the affected area to see if you can locate a pain trigger point. This is a small area under your skin that is extremely sensitive or triggers the pain. You can be successful using the pressure technique if you are as firm as possible on the affected area without increasing the pain. You should try to apply pressure for approximately a minute. This could often relieve the pain for several hours after releasing the pressure.
How Is Vibration Used?
Using vibration over or near where the pain is located could provide temporary pain relief. A handheld vibrator with a scalp attachment can be effective for relieving a headache. If you have lower-back pain, putting a battery operated vibrator in the small of the back could provide some relief. There is a variety of vibrating devices available. There is small battery operated vibrators, bed vibrators, handheld electric vibrators as well as a large heat-massage electric pads.
Is Heat Or Cold Better For Relieving Pain?
Heat can be effective when used to treat sore muscles. Cold can decrease pain by numbing the affected area. There are people who have had prolonged pain and only use heat. They never try cold. Some people discover cold relieves their pain faster and provides longer lasting relief.
Comfortable and Convenient Ways For Using Cold Or Heat
One of the best ways to use cold is with gel packs. They are sealed in plastic and continue to be flexible and soft even at freezing temperatures. You can get gel packs at medical supply stores as well as drugstores. They can be left in the freezer when not being used and are reusable. Put the gel pack in layers of towels so it feels comfortable. You may find wrapping an ice pack or ice cubes in a towel is just as effective as using a gel pack.
When you want to use heat as your pain relief method, use a heating pad that can generate its own moisture. They are called a hydrocolaters. It’s also possible to heat gel packs in hot water, use hot water bottles as well as a moist towel that is hot. A regular heating pad, as well as a hot bath or shower, are also effective ways to apply heat. If your joints such as knee or elbow are aching, it possible to wrap them in a lightweight plastic wrap. This will retain the body’s heat and moisture. Remember to never use heat or cold on any area of your body that has received radiation therapy.
A menthol preparation used for pain relief can come as a lotion, cream, gel or liniment that contains menthol. When these substances are rubbed onto a person’s skin, it increases the circulation of blood to the affected area. This creates a warm and sometimes cool sensation. It’s a soothing feeling that can last for hours.
Using Menthol Preparations
To see if this method works for you, start by rubbing a small amount of the menthol preparation in a circle about an inch all around on the affected area. Doing this will make you aware if the menthol is uncomfortable or is irritating to your skin. If it doesn’t cause a problem, it’s okay to put more on the affected area. The sensation created by the menthol slowly increases and will remain for hours. If you want to increase the duration or intensity of the menthol sensation, you can apply heat to open your skin’s pores or wrap the area with plastic.
Don’t use a heating pad, it could cause a burn. Should you be worried about others finding the odor upsetting, you can use these products when you’re alone. Many menthol products contain an ingredient that acts like aspirin. When using them, you’ll absorb small amounts of an aspirin-like substance through your skin. If you should not have aspirin, you should not use a menthol preparation. It’s important you first check with your physician.
What Precautions Should I Take When Using Skin Stimulation?
Always consult a physician prior to implementing any type of skin stimulation technique. It is possible for heat or cold to damage your skin. You could get a burn with hot water from the tap or if the settings on a heating pad are too high. Extreme cold will also burn a person’s skin. Never use a heating pad on your bare skin. Never go to sleep with a heating pad turned on. You should be especially careful if you’re using a heating pad and you’re taking drugs or medication that make you drowsy. You also need to be careful if you don’t have much feeling in the affected area. The heat application should be limited to ten minutes or less.
Never apply heat or cold to an area of the body where circulation or sensation is poor. Should you begin shivering when using cold, stop using it immediately. Never use cold for so long that it becomes intense and causes pain. Don’t use heat on a new injury. This can increase bleeding. It’s important to wait for a minimum of 24 hours. Don’t rub menthol preparation on skin that is broken or has a rash. Never let it on your mucous membranes. Do not get the menthol preparation in your eyes. Don’t massage or use vibration on areas of your body that are red, tender, raw or swollen. If skin stimulation causes you more pain, then stop using it immediately.
If you have undergone radiation treatments or are currently going through them, don’t use the skin stimulation method until you speak with your physician or a nurse.