Research has shown that pain is influenced by emotional and social factors. This needs to be addressed along with the physical causes of pain. Chronic stress is one factor that contributes to chronic pain. The good news is that you can get natural pain relief by making relaxation exercises a part of your pain-management plan.
To understand how natural pain relief works, it’s important to understand how stress affects your body. Our body has a natural “fight or flight” response when it comes to stress and pain and stress have a similar effect on the body: your heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes fast and shallow, and your muscles tighten.
With chronic stress, the nervous system keeps the body on constant alert. This takes a big toll on your system. Levels of stress hormones increase, and muscles remain in a nearly constant state of tension.
Chronic stress hurts.
Relaxation calms the mind and helps the body unwind. It is particularly important for people who live with pain. Pain increases muscle tension which in turn, creates more pain. When muscles are tense, they tighten and increase pressure on our nerves and other tissues which can make the pain worse. Relaxation can help break the pain-tension cycle. There are many forms of relaxation techniques so it should be easy to find one that works best for you.
The easiest one to begin with is deep breathing. Shallow, rapid chest breathing results from tension. Deep breathing from the diaphragm helps relax you. To begin, find a warm quiet place, where you won’t be disturbed. Once this technique is learnt, you can use it in almost any situation you find yourself.
- Make yourself comfortable
- Loosen any tight clothing
- Begin by listening to your breathing as it is
- Breathe through your nose whenever possible (use your mouth only if your nose is blocked)
- Put your hands over your stomach area and feel them rise and fall.
- Imagine you are breathing into your hands. Relax your stomach muscles. Take deep, slow breaths. Remember to breathe at your own pace
- As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in peace. As you breathe out, imagine you are blowing away tension.
- Inhale to a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale to a count of four, then hold again to a count of four
- Breathe deeply, so that your stomach rises and falls with each breath
- Repeat for ten cycles
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Tense and relax each muscle in turn unless it hurts, in which case, leave that one out.
- Sit or lie down quietly in a comfortable position
- Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Breathe easily and naturally
- Slowly tense each muscle in your body. Begin with your right hand. Squeeze your right hand into a tight fist. Feel the tension in your right hand. Hold this position for a few seconds. Now release the tension slowly. As the tension disappears, your hand feels relaxed.
- Repeat this for your left hand.
- Arms – tense both arms. Make your arms rigid and tense. Hold and release
- Shoulders – lift your shoulders. Hold and release. Hunch your shoulders to touch your ears. Hold and release.
- Toes – curl your toes up. Hold and release.
- Feet – pull your toes up towards your face. Feel the muscles working in your shins. Hold and release. Then point your toes away from your face. Feel the muscles tensing in your calves. Hold and release.
- Legs – clench your thighs. Hold and release. Clench both buttocks. Hold and release.
- Eyebrows – raise your eyebrows as high as they can go. Hold and release.
- Frown – pull your eyebrows together. Scrunch up your whole face. Hold and release.
- Eyes – screw up your eyes tightly. Hold and release
- Jaw – Open your mouth wide. Hold and release
Now your muscles are relaxed. You feel calm and still
Relaxation exercises calm your mind, reduce stress hormones in your blood, relax your muscles, and elevate your sense of well-being. Using them regularly can lead to long-term changes in your body to counteract the harmful effects of stress.
There is always hope