The annual cost of chronic pain is as high as $635 billion a year, which is more than the yearly costs for cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In 2014, Integrative Medicine Journal published an article I wrote about options for treating chronic pain that complement conventional treatment. The research supports interventions such as biofeedback, guided imagery, hypnosis or even mindfulness for the management of chronic pain.
Part of the reason these self-care skills, or “mind-body” practices can work so well for chronic pain is because chronic pain is MORE than the physical sensation of pain. Melzack & Casey explain in their 4-stages of pain model that pain begins with the physical sensation and initial unpleasantness of being in pain, stage 1 and 2. For those in chronic pain, the emotional suffering (stage 3) and behavior around the pain (stage 4) can be just as big, if not more, of a problem.
Mind-body self-care skills can play a role in managing pain and improving quality of life for anyone suffering in any of the 4 stages of chronic pain. There is research to support the use of the practices listed below for chronic pain. Each practice is SAFE. However, NOT EVERY PRACTICE WILL WORK FOR EVERY INDIVIDUAL. One of the responsibilities that comes along with self-care is experimenting with ourselves to see what works for us.
This idea of self-experimentation, a concept we call YouLab in our Sustainable Self-Care Skills Initiatives, first struck me when my daughter Emmalea was searching for interventions to help calm her uncontrolled epileptic seizures. Her neurologist suggested biofeedback since there was strong evidence to support it. She tried biofeedback and it made her more agitated. However, yoga, meditation, and guided imagery quieted her seizures. Emmalea is an artist and a poet, so it makes perfect sense that she might not respond well to the structure and approach of biofeedback, which could work well for many others.
Approach the options one at a time, knowing they are all safe, with an open mind and be aware of how your body, mind, and emotions respond to each. Keep what works, and leave the rest for others! Click on each practice below for a SOHL micro-learning video to learn about the practice, the research supporting it, and then we’ll walk you through some practices that are just a few minutes each…
Practices that can help manage chronic pain and improve the quality of your life:
Or you can view more self-care skills trainings.