When your mind and body are relaxed, you have a greater ability to manage your pain and your emotions. Anxiety and stress can cause physical symptoms like muscle tension, which in turn, worsens pain. By implementing relaxation techniques, you will be better able to cope with the stress and emotions of dealing with chronic pain and you will also minimise physical body tension. Learning practical relaxation techniques will help break the pain / tension cycle.
Relaxation techniques are a skill that will require practice to master. They come in many forms and their effectiveness can vary by individual. It’s important to try a few techniques and choose the approach that works best for you.
Here are the main types of relaxation techniques:
Controlled Deep Breathing
When you feel anxious or stressed, the body activates its ‘flight or fight’ response that changes the pattern of your breathing making it shallow and rapid. Shallow breathing can prolong the feeling of tension. Controlled deep breathing techniques help the body to restore relaxation and a feeling of calm.
To feel the benefits of Controlled Deep Breathing, sit in a comfortable chair and place one hand on your abdomen. As you take slow deep breaths, concentrate on breathing right down into the abdomen rather than your chest.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a physical form of relaxation designed to raise awareness of tension and stress within the body. By systematically tensing a particular set of muscle groups within the body and then releasing the tension, this exercise helps you to notice the difference in how the muscles feel. Progressive Muscle Relaxation teaches you to distinguish the feelings of being tensed and relaxed and provides you with the ability to recognise when the tension creeps in for you to manage it.
Guided Imagery Meditation
Guided Imagery is a meditation technique used to help the mind relax and steer the attention away from the physical pain and stressful thoughts. Relaxing the mind helps you to cope more effectively with stress and anxiety and raises your tolerance threshold for coping with pain.