Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 35° Cloudy
News >  Features

Mind-body techniques can ease pain

Anthony L. Komaroff M.D.

DEAR DOCTOR K: I suffer from chronic pain. My doctor suggested that I look into mind-body therapies. Why? Is it possible to think your way out of pain?

DEAR READER: Pain signals sent up the nerves from your body register in pain centers deep inside your brain. But signals from those pain centers then are processed by the “thinking part” of your brain. That part, in turn, is affected by your emotions, which come from a different part of your brain.

So, yes, how the rest of your brain responds to the pain registering in the pain centers of the brain can greatly affect how you experience it.

How you feel pain is also influenced by your genetic makeup, your personality and your past experience.

Drugs can relieve pain, but they often have side effects when used for a long time.

Dr. Ellen Slawsby, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, suggests that the following mind-body techniques can help take your mind off your pain:

DEEP BREATHING. Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds and exhale. To help you focus, you can use a word or phrase to guide you. For example, you may want to breathe in “peace” and breathe out “tension.”

RELAXATION RESPONSE. The stress response pumps up heart rate and puts the body’s systems on high alert. The relaxation response is a natural antidote. Close your eyes and relax all your muscles. Then concentrate on deep breathing. Continue doing this for 10 to 20 minutes. Afterward, sit quietly for a minute while your thoughts return.

MEDITATION WITH GUIDED IMAGERY. Begin deep breathing, paying attention to each breath. Then listen to calming music or imagine being in a restful environment.

POSITIVE THINKING. When we’re ill, we often tend to become fixated on what we aren’t able to do. Retrain your focus on what you can do.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.