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Pain Management Health Center

Hypnosis, Meditation, and Relaxation for Pain Treatment

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Relaxation Therapies continued...

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.

Benefits of Relaxing

While research is ongoing, there is evidence to suggest the effectiveness of relaxation techniques for reducing chronic pain related to a variety of medical conditions, including stress-related disorders. Other benefits may include reduced muscle tension and insomnia and increased activity level.

The best way to learn relaxation techniques is with the help of a trained practitioner. Usually, these techniques are taught in a group class and then practiced regularly at home.

There is no widely accepted license for practicing relaxation therapy. However, it is often practiced by therapists and psychologists. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.

Risks of Mind-Body Therapies

Although mind/body therapies don't have the risks of medical or surgical therapies, there have been rare reports of adverse reactions from them.

If you have poorly controlled cardiovascular disease, experts recommend avoiding progressive muscle relaxation, because abdominal tensing can cause increased pressure in the chest cavity, slowing of the pulse, decreased return of blood to the heart, and increased venous pressure.

If you have a history of psychosis or epilepsy, you may wish to speak with your doctor before trying meditation. There have been reports of some people having further acute episodes following deep and prolonged meditation.

Hypnosis or deep relaxation can sometimes worsen psychological problems in people with post-traumatic stress disorders or a susceptibility to false memories. Its use should be avoided in patients with borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, or with patients who have histories of profound abuse. Because competent hypnotherapists are skilled in recognizing and referring patients with these conditions, only appropriately trained and experienced practitioners should undertake hypnosis.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on May 30, 2014
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