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No matter how much medication you take or the amount of rest you get, chronic pain somehow still creeps its way in. Which is why figuring out how to distract yourself from pain is useful when all else fails. Using distraction has been really effective in helping me to cope with my chronic pain.
At first, I didn’t even realise it was something I was doing. It sort of just happened.
I’m quite a fidgety person and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had to stop myself from fidgeting. Unknowingly, those same things were also helping me to distract myself from my pain.
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HOW DISTRACTION CAN HELP YOU COPE WITH PAIN?
When I first started visiting a pain clinic and discussing alternative pain management methods, distraction was one of the first things my specialist suggested, and, to be quite honest, I thought it was a bunch of bullshit.
However, after asking a few more questions, I realised it was something I had been doing all along.
It really opened my eyes, so I asked even more questions and did a little digging of my own. It amazed me how much research there was on the use of distraction for pain relief.
This study was one of the many I stumbled across.
During the study, participants had painful levels of heat applied to their arms and were asked to complete either a normal or hard memory task.
The research showed that participants felt lesser levels of pain when distracted by hard memory tasks.
They repeated the study, but this time, they gave participants a drug to block opioids naturally produced by the brain.
The pain relief effects dropped slightly and thus showed how the brain paired with distraction can really alter the experience of pain.
This study is just a brief example of how effectively distracting yourself from pain can be, and there are several ways you can do it.
THE BENEFITS OF DISTRACTION FOR PAIN MANAGEMENT
Aside from the obvious, there are also a few other benefits to using distraction for pain management.
It can often feel like pain consumes and controls us. But working out how to distract yourself from pain can allow you to take back control.
Although the pain itself may be irrational and unpredictable, how we control it doesn’t have to be.
Rather than worrying about how much control our pain has taken away, instead, we can focus on what we can do to kick its ass and regain control.
Being proactive and finding healthy distractions will help you to :
So why not give it a go for yourself and see if you reap the same benefits? Here are some ideas to help get you started.
HOW TO DISTRACT YOURSELF FROM PAIN – 10 SIMPLE WAYS
1. LISTEN TO MUSIC
There has been a number of studies showing how music can be an effective way to manage and distract people from pain. This is because of endorphins being released, allowing you to shift your focus to something other than pain.
Listen to something calming on those terrible pain days when you need rest. Or something uplifting to boost your mood when you’re feeling really crappy.
Put together a chronic pain playlist with all of your favourite songs for those days when you really need a distraction.
2. LEARN A NEW SKILL
Starting my blog is something I used to distract myself from pain. When I started my blog, I had no clue what I was doing or where to start. Doing research, writing blog posts along with everything else was a major distraction for me.
Learning a new skill is a great way to distract yourself whilst learning something new at the same time.
Whether it’s starting a blog or learning how to play an instrument, find something that excites you and get stuck in. Time will fly by without you even having a second thought about being in pain.
3. WATCH A MOVIE
A good watch, whether it be a series or film, can be an amazing way to escape. Immersing yourself into someone else’s world is a good distraction from reality.
When I’m in the middle of a flare-up I get comfy, grab some snacks and binge on my favourite films or tv shows.
4. GET INTO NATURE
I’m not a huge outdoors person, however, I’ve found that getting out into nature helps me to shift my focus to something other than how awful I feel.
If I’m not in too much pain, I try to get out of the house even just for a few minutes.
It may just be a walk to the shops or a walk up and down my garden, but I’ve found it really helps.
5. TAKE A BUBBLE BATH
Practice some self-care and have a nice soak in the bath. It can be really relaxing, particularly when in pain. I like to put on some relaxing music, grab a book, add some Epsom salt or bubble bath and have a good soak.
6. TAKE A DEEP BREATH
When you feel your chronic pain slowly trying to take over, relax and take a deep breath.
Breathing exercises are a useful way to practice mindfulness and also distract you from your pain.
Give this simple exercise a try:
- Take one hand and place it above your stomach
- Breath in slowly and deeply
- Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale
- Repeat as many times as you need to
7. LAUGH OUT LOUD
As weird as it may sound, laughter is medicine. Seriously, there are studies to prove it.
Whether you watch a funny video clip or think of something funny, do whatever you can to make yourself laugh.
New research has shown that laughter is a form of pain relief as it releases happy chemicals to the brain.
8. THINK OF A TIME YOU WERE PAIN-FREE
I know this may be really hard to do, especially when you’re in agony, and pain is the only thing on your mind.
But where possible, dive into your thoughts and daydream about a time when you were pain-free and happy.
Fully immerse yourself into – how you felt, what you were doing, and allow yourself to stay in that moment, even if it’s just for a little while.
9. REACH OUT TO LOVED ONES
Spending time with friends or family is a healthy distraction from your pain. It’s a chance to catch up, whether over the phone or in-person.
Try to avoid conversations about your pain, but more so about what’s new with them. Or, if you can, make plans to meet up and do something fun.
Journaling is not only a great way to express and manage your thoughts. But for many, it’s a great tool to help improve your general well-being.
It’s the one place where you can truly be yourself and let go. It’s a great way to relieve stress, seek clarity, or just vent your anger or frustrations.
You can write brain dumps, lists, or if you need some guidance use journal prompts or guided journals. Even better, you don’t have to be a skilled writer to do it.
I hope this has helped you understand different ways to distract yourself from pain and will be something you add to your pain management toolbox.
Having a few different ways to manage chronic pain is crucial as different things work at different times and also different for different people.
Do you use distraction for pain relief? If so, what are some things you do to distract yourself?
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