Approaches to Treating Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is one of the most common and costly physical conditions in the United States. The following approaches have proven to be somewhat effective in reducing personal suffering from chronic pain. Although some of these can be practiced on your own, it is wise to work with a pain specialist, preferably one who does not count 100% on pain medications. Nerve, cancer, and phantom limb pain may be more difficult to improve. Always be cautious when self-administering any pain intervention. Some of the same interventions may also help to reduce psychological/emotional pain; this may be true as an integrated aspect of pain or as a stand-alone condition. Emotional pain and suffering is often associated with aggravated physical pain. Here is the list. If you are unfamiliar with these, you may need to Google them. Google Professionals may be more helpful.
- Cognitive distraction techniques
- Mediating self-talk
- Safe place imagery
- Happy place imagery
- Shifting perceptual attention away from the pain
- Changing sensory perception about the pain – for example, what does the pain look like, smell like, etc.
- Specific meditation and yoga interventions
- Noticing very small changes in perception of pain via changing locations in the body or in and outside of painful areas
- Intense focused attention on sensory objects around you – outside of you
- Guided visualization
- Imaginal numbing
- De-centering skills – MBCT
- Muscular relaxation skills
- Conscious dissociation (difficult to do)
- Regular practice of sensory manipulation of the painful area – size, location, shape, color, localization, density, temperature , etc.
- Use of Wolpe’s Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale – from 1 to 100 how bad is the pain before and after doing interventions?
- Use of Quintiliani’s Subjective Units of Pleasure Scale – from 1 to 100 how much does the pan improve after interventions? This scale may best fit safe place and happy place interventions.
- Skilled chiropractic and/or physical therapy
- Last caution: Pain in any form is not something to play around with; best to work with a trained and experienced professional.
- This post will be followed by one that deals with suggestive and quasi-hypnotic interventions in pain.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness