The Newest Techniques for Relaxation and Pain Relief

The Newest Techniques for Relaxation and Pain Relief

Over 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain.  To be very specific CP is pain which lasts longer than an appropriate healing time for an injury, diseases affecting the nerves, or surgery. Three to six months and frequently even longer occurrences of pain are classified as chronic.  These numbers are rising steadily.  Research groups such as IASP, the International Association for the Study of Pain, are ramping up efforts to find more strident methodology for curing patients, when possible, rather than medicating the sufferer with pills which often are a gateway to addiction.

PAIN Has A Purpose?

The word pain has many connotations. It might be identified as an irritating, uncomfortable sensory experience, either sharply felt, or vague and spasmodic. What people in pain don’t often realize is that pain affects human emotions, not just body parts and function, in a very impactful and discernible manner. Anyone who suffers from chronic pain knows that it physically:  interrupts normal activities, causes muscles and joints to stiffen, increases blood pressure, lowers the ability of the immune system to fight infection, and affects the heart rate. It impedes the quality of life.  Emotionally, when nerve damage is part of the injury, or the pain is incessant and ongoing, feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and hopelessness are felt. Pain and the emotions it emits are inextricably linked 100% of the time, causing stress to increase to unhealthy levels, sleeplessness and poor appetite.

The flip side to this all-inclusive distress, or the positive purpose of pain is that it is nature’s way of providing an innate warning system for the human condition. When inflammation, tissue damage, broken bones, racing heartbeat, or organ dysfunction, cause intense discomfort, the brain demands that action be taken. Often, having experienced the very distressing feeling of pain, the human condition protects itself by using caution to avoid becoming injured. Pain is the very real indicator that the body needs care.  It is the human tool for survival. It demands that medical attention is sought. Research has shown that chronic pain is very complex, and the discomfort felt is totally “brain made”.

Relax Like Einstein – He Played the Violin

Learning to live with chronic pain is do-able.  However, you must be tenacious and learn to use the new and ever-evolving relaxation techniques that work to, both physically and psychologically, lead to a totally calm mindset and peacefulness, which reduces stress and relieves pain. The hyper-connectivity and overcommitment of everyday life, create a scenario which exacerbates pain levels, increases stress, and makes the effort to become tranquil, a task for super-heroes.  Robert Jamison, PhD, and Harvard Medical Professor works with chronic pain sufferers and has found that relaxation techniques are very effective and restorative.  However, it is often a combination of techniques, practiced in tandem, which has the most effectual results, since many stressed and pain weary people find the task of relaxing very challenging. Einstein was a genius. He used the technique of listening to music as a therapy for relaxation and pain relief, long before there was any indication that self-care worked to enhance well-being.

Empowerment -   Engaging in Relaxation Response

Unlike past history, the continuously faster paced environs of modern life, keep the body’s stress responses triggered, and increase the anxiousness, muscle tightening, and shallow breathing which, although natural in high risk situations, overload the body with hormones and tension, which are unhealthy, physically, and emotionally. Often, the body’s relaxation responses just don’t happen.  Relaxation can be induced and achieved with focused effort and a mix of techniques that bring peaceful calm to the mind and body.  Finding the techniques that work best is a very personal choice. The ones that feel comfortable and can easily be repeated are often the most effective.  The newest techniques offered include:

  • Basic Mindful Meditation which focuses on “Chocolate”  
  1. Take deep breaths and relax your muscles
  2. Closed eyes for focus and to feel comfortable
  3. Smell, gaze at and nibble a small piece of dark chocolate
  4. Feel the sensations of it in on your tongue, and on swallowing
  5. It doesn’t need to be chocolate, any savory treat (in a small amount will work)

Mindful Meditation can focus on many things like sounds, objects, aromas and other simple visual, olfactory or auditory stimuli.  With quiet time and consistency, it works to calm the mind and body, takes very little time, and builds resilience against stress, and a reduction of chronic pain.

  • Box Breathing
  1. A slow deep breathing exercise to expand and contract the stomach
  2. Inhale slowly to the count of 4, feeling your stomach expand
  3. Exhale slowly counting to 4, feeling stomach contraction
  4. Hold (no breath) for a 4 count
  5. Repeat for 10 cycles

It’s important to find a comfortable place to sit in a very upright position, with relaxed hands, palms facing upward. Exhale before beginning to deplete air in the lungs. * The Mayo Clinic’s recent research substantiates that “intentional deep breathing” activates the autonomic nervous system to regulate body processes which calm, oxygenate the blood, and help reduce chronic pain. Practiced 2 or more times a day, it’s effectiveness will be easily discerned.

  • Body Scan Techniques
  1. Mentally scanning or focusing on, sequentially, parts of the body from feet to head, noting aches, pains, sensations and discomforts, daily, to identify and manage pain and reduce stress.
  2. Sit or lay comfortably, and take a few belly breaths
  3. Start with feet, noticing pain or odd sensations, breath and think about what is felt
  4. Move the focus upward, identifying discomfort, breathing deeply and letting go of stresses until reaching the head.
  5. Identifying areas of tension, breathing and thinking through your feelings, induces muscle relaxation and well-being

Practiced often, even if only the tense or stressed body parts are noted, and relieved of tension through breathing and identification, muscle relaxation will occur more easily, pain will be reduced, and health will be enhanced.

  • Forest Bathing
  1. Forest bathing is moving through a beautiful space in nature to focus on sensory stimulation, letting go of stress.
  2. Spending time in nature, green spaces, a garden, the forest, benefits the mind and body with instant, natural calm.
  3. Any time spent in nature, the desert, the ocean or mountains, offers calming sounds, scents, and sunlight which stimulate healthy cell growth, and generate calming deep relaxation. More time spent, equals more health benefits.
  4. Jay Lee from Kaiser Permanente in Colorado, has noted that engaging in the physicality of getting out into nature loosens joints, relieves body stiffness, and helps to manage chronic pain.
  5. Nature offers mental centering and instant relaxation, as the focus is on the self, with no cellular distractions, and identifying stress triggers in life and maximum relaxation is easily accomplished.

Forest Bathing, also known as Shinrin-Yoku, has been a well-respected preventive health care and relaxation technique in Japan for over 50 years.  New in America, practitioners have found that the more serene the outdoor environment, the more complete and long lasting the calm, pain-reduced, relaxation will last.

  • Thermo or Crypto-therapy Techniques
  1. The use of heat or cold pack treatments to reduce pain and inflammation after an injury, or to reduce the discomfort of chronic pain
  2. Heat packs, dry or moist can be used for 8 hours to increase blood flow, assisting muscle relaxation
  3. Cold Pack applications decrease blood flow and slow swelling and tissue damage after an injury. Apply for up to 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a day.
  4. Cold Packs reduce tendinitis or any tendon pain, osteoarthritis, and sprain discomfort
  5. Neither hot or cold should be place directly against skin, only a wrapped packs offers evenly heating hot or cold packs for more effective and lasting pain relief at the shoulders, neck, joints and lower back or wherever pain is present. 

Chilling Out – Breathing In

Often the most important and life sustaining activity that can be done during an industrious day, is the rest taken between two deep breaths.  Down time is illusive, yet very necessary. Relaxation is a shrinking mindset, and pain is ever-present. Taking the proactive steps necessary to reverse this unhealthy, yet growing trend, is not only courageous, its vital for anyone who wishes to live a full and satisfying healthy life.  Many techniques are easy to adapt to, and setting aside 20 minutes or more, daily, is do-able.  Do the footwork, take the breaths, feel the chill of well-being.  Then, please, pass it on.