If you've noticed your pain seems to ease when you're with good friends or watching a great movie, you've witnessed the power of distraction.
Finding a way to distract yourself from pain can be a valuable skill. Distraction can't make pain go away, but can often take the edge off. Here are five ways to trigger distraction from pain.
1. Escape to virtual reality
Virtual reality has been used for years by hospitals and dentists to distract patients during difficult procedures. Using special goggles, virtual reality can transport the user to a totally different world. It's not cheap—though less expensive types are now being marketed—so renting a unit or buying one with a friend may be the way to go. Virtual reality equipment can also be checked out from some public libraries.
Options with similar benefits include video games or smart phone games—the more interactive, the better.
2. Focus on positive imagery
Focusing on an appealing mental picture to block out thoughts of pain is the goal of visual imagery. This could include imagining yourself going to a beautiful, relaxing seashore or picturing your pain going away. You can work with a professional to develop these skills, but an array of smartphone apps, DVDs, and online resources are also available to learn these techniques. To be most effective, imagery must be practiced regularly.
3. Get a massage
A relaxing massage is not only distracting, it leads to increased levels of endorphins, the body's nature pain relievers. Massage also increases circulation, which can be helpful if pain has limited your physical activity. By improving range of motion, massage also can ease the stiffness that often goes hand-in-hand with chronic pain.
4. Take some deep breaths
Often combined with meditation, deep breathing exercises can help the body relax, easing tense muscles and reducing pain. Some people with chronic pain, such as those with fibromyalgia, tend to take shorter breaths, which can limit oxygen intake and increase pain. Deep breathing exercises can be learned quickly through phone apps, online sources, or DVDs. The doctor can help with any questions about technique.
5. Get outside
Getting some fresh air is a simple way to lighten your mood and take your mind off your pain for a while. It can also break up some of the isolation common with chronic pain. Taking a walk is ideal, but if that isn't possible, try sitting outside and listening to the birds or watching people go by.