Hypnosis, Meditation, and Relaxation for Pain Treatment
Meditation involves using a number of awareness techniques to help quiet the mind and relax the body. The two most common techniques are:
- Transcendental meditation. The patient repeats a single word or phrase, called a mantra, and is taught to allow other thoughts and feelings to pass.
- Mindfulness Meditation. The person focuses all of his or her attention on thoughts and sensations. This form of meditation is often taught in stress-reduction programs.
Benefits of Meditation
Studies suggest that meditating can increase pain tolerance, activity levels, and self-esteem and decrease anxiety, stress, depression, and use of pain medications.
Mindfulness meditation has been used successfully in programs to reduce pain and improve mood in patients with chronic pain from a variety of conditions, including headache, low back pain, chest pain, and gastrointestinal pain.
There are varied forms of meditation and training certification organizations; for example, one can get certified in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), but if you're not sure, speak to your doctor, who may be able to recommend a good teacher or teaching facility.
To practice meditation, repeated meetings with the instructor may not be necessary. A recent study examining the perception of pain and various mental training techniques has found that relatively short and simple mindfulness meditation training can have a significant positive and long-term effect on pain.
Relaxation therapies include a range of techniques with the goal of reducing stress. In addition to meditation, the major types of relaxation techniques are:
Progressive muscle relaxation. Also known as systematic muscle relaxation and Jacobson relaxation, this technique involves slowly tensing, briefly holding, and then releasing each muscle group in a systematic fashion, starting with the muscles in the toes and moving upward. During this exercise, the person should notice the differences between tension and relaxation.
Autogenic training. This technique uses visual imagery and body awareness to achieve relaxation. The person imagines being in a peaceful place and then focuses on different physical sensations, such as heaviness of the limbs or a calm heartbeat. People may practice on their own, creating their own images, or be guided by a therapist. Patients may also be encouraged to see themselves coping more effectively with stressors in their lives.
Breathing. Breathing techniques teach people to breathe effectively to relieve stress. While placing one hand on the chest and another on the belly, the person is instructed to take a slow, deep breath, taking in as much air as possible. During this, the belly should press against the hand. After holding their breath for a few seconds, patients are instructed to slowly exhale.