Manage Chronic Pain with Guided Meditation, Breathing, & Journaling

  Monday, February 7, 2022

Pain that lasts longer than three months is referred to as chronic pain. It's possible that the pain will be constant or that it will come and go. It can occur in any part of your body. Chronic pain can make it difficult to go about your everyday activities, such as working, socializing, and caring for yourself or others. It can cause melancholy, worry, and sleeping problems, all of which can exacerbate your discomfort. This reaction sets in motion a difficult-to-break cycle.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the health status of U.S. adults, almost 20% of American adults — 50.2 million people — suffer from chronic pain on a day to day basis. Dr. Robert Jason Yong, the medical director of Brigham's pain treatment division and the study's corresponding author, believes that "millions of Americans are suffering from chronic pain right now."

According to a Harvard study of CDC data published in the journal Pain, the most prevalent types of chronic pain are back pain (reported by about 41% of individuals with chronic pain) and hip, knee, or foot pain (reported by about 44%). An old injury, infection, headaches, nerve damage, and diseases including cancer, arthritis, and diabetes are all common causes of persistent pain. Chronic pain has been shown to have an impact on people's physical and mental well-being, as well as their social and professional lives. For instance, the survey revealed that those with chronic pain say it makes them unable to work approximately 10 days a year, compared with roughly three missed workdays for those who do not have chronic pain.

Causes of Chronic Pain 

Chronic pain can sometimes be traced back to a specific cause. You could have a long-term illness, such as arthritis or cancer, that causes you to be in constant discomfort. Injuries and diseases can alter your body's physiology, making you more susceptible to pain. Even after you've recovered from the original injury or disease, these alterations can persist. A sprain, a broken bone, or a short infection can all leave you in persistent agony.

Some people suffer from persistent pain not caused by an injury or illness. This type of pain is referred to as psychogenic or psychosomatic pain by doctors. Pain caused by emotional or mental stress or a result of a psychiatric disorder is known as psychogenic pain. On the other hand, a physical examination may not identify or explain discomfort that cannot be diagnosed or explained. Psychosomatic pain is pain caused or exacerbated by mental stress or anxiety due to a somatic condition. Endocrine, autoimmune, and other infections that cause psychological symptoms are somatic illnesses.

Impact of Pain on Quality of Life 

Quality of life is gradually becoming acknowledged as one of the most significant factors to be examined in evaluating medical therapies, including pain management, despite its new inclusion in medical research and its interpretation is often diverse. When pain is not successfully managed and eased, it harms all parts of one's life. This detrimental impact has been discovered to affect people of all ages and every form and cause of pain researched.

Pain is not only a tremendously unpleasant feeling in and of itself; it may also have a profoundly detrimental impact on practically every other aspect of life, including mood and ability to perform daily tasks. According to a World Health Organization study, those who suffer from chronic pain are 4 times more likely to experience despair or anxiety. They are more than twice as likely to have problems working.

In the United States, the most serious healthcare crises is pain. Pain is the most common reason behind physician consultation in the United States, with about half of all Americans seeing a doctor with a primary complaint of pain each year.

The expenses of pain are extraordinarily significant, both in terms of the healthcare system and society as a whole. People who are in pain go to the hospital more often, and their productivity is also reduced. About 4 billion workdays are lost each year due to pain. 

While these expenditures are huge, one of the most significant costs of pain is losing the quality of life. Pain is widely known as one of the most important factors of quality of life, which is defined as an individual's ability to perform a variety of responsibilities in society and achieve an acceptable level of enjoyment while doing so. 

Overcoming Chronic Pain 

We all want to live a life free of pain and illness. The disease may be overcome with chronic pain, but the pain may linger. We need to focus on the quality of life regarding aspects of our lives regarding health and happiness. Chronic pain can steal our ability to live a good life, which makes it important that we deal with it in a systematic and lucrative way. 

Studies demonstrate that our perception of pain intensity decreases when we redirect our focus away from a painful situation. But how are we supposed to concentrate on anything other than our pain?

Mindfulness practices can help with this. Journaling can help you express your emotions while increasing your awareness and acceptance of the current moment. When utilized regularly, a notebook can help us divert our attention away from discomfort, even if only for a short time. As we continue to journal, we get more adept at making this adjustment on our own, which reduces pain symptoms.

Mindfulness meditation is also one such method that pain patients use. Mindfulness is an attentional position of detached observation based on ancient Eastern meditation practices. It is characterized by openness, curiosity, and acceptance regarding the current moment. Mindfulness meditation is supposed to function by concentrating the attention on the present moment and enhancing awareness of one's exterior surroundings and internal sensations, allowing the person to take a step back and reinterpret their experiences.

The Challenge 

Keeping everything in mind, JournalOwl brings forth a new 5-day challenge that can help you improve your quality of life by tackling your pain symptoms with mindfulness, meditation, and journaling. Providing you with tips, journaling prompts, and videos to watch, we want to equip you with an arsenal to combat your chronic pain not just for 5 days but for a lifetime. The name of the game is a challenge and should be treated as such because it won't be easy. However, it is completely doable, and we are excited to share our steps with you. 

Day 1: Managing Your Stress 

Stress can stimulate the immune system and create greater inflammation, according to an article released by the Institute for Chronic Pain (based on a manuscript published in the Journal of Pain). Inflammation can aggravate a variety of chronic pain conditions. 

If stress is exacerbating your chronic pain, there are several things you may do to reduce your stress and, in turn, your pain. While certain pressures are easier to identify, such as major life events, others are more difficult to comprehend.

When we are relaxed, our bodies go through a physiological transition that is the polar opposite of the stress response. It enables us to relax, recuperate, heal, and feel at ease. Learning how to relax is as individual as your fingerprint. While some people benefit from meditation, yoga, and tai chi, others benefit from socializing, dancing, and listening to heavy metal. Whatever you choose, incorporating it throughout your day can help keep stress at bay as long as it breaks the stress circuit and soothes your mind and body.

No doubt, stress can cause chronic pain to worsen. This is why managing your stress is one of the key steps in overcoming chronic pain. This may feel like a lot for day one, but it's good to get the ball rolling on this one as soon as possible. To aid you in this, you can also do a guided meditation on this day. Sit in a comfy place, shut your eyes, and visualize your happy place. Visualize things and places that alleviate your anxiety. After 30 mins of this, you can sit down to answer the following journal questions:

  • Right now, I feel challenged by ______. However, I feel supported by ______.
  • What are some victories for today?
  • Write about all the places where you can currently feel the pain or tension in your body. What about all the areas that feel relaxed.

Ready to get started? Join others in this Chronic Pain challenge!

Day 2: Find Your Distractions 

Your mind may be predisposed to focusing on a variety of topics throughout the day (and, for some, into the night) without pausing to rest. You might only think about the pain and how it makes you feel. The idea is to train your mind to turn negative and positive. Find something you enjoy doing, anything that will keep you occupied and distracted from your pain. Although you may not prevent pain, you can take charge of your life.

The distraction techniques you employ throughout the day may differ depending on the surroundings, the type of pain you're experiencing, and the people you're around. For example, if you're at a school, a store, or the movies, you might want to utilize approaches that aren't distracting to others. Listen to music, play with the stress ball, solve a puzzle, or blow bubbles if you're at home. If the people around you know that you suffer from chronic pain, you might enlist their help in a diversion tactic. You may go for a walk and talk, listen to your iPod, or make a model together.

Distractions can be a good way to take your mind off chronic pain and can be an out during difficult situations where your pain can overcome you. We also suggest meditating as a distraction technique to focus on your breathing. First, select a relaxing area. Avoid being distracted by your phone, television, or other electronic devices. Simply close your eyes and take a deep breath in before gently exhaling out. Imagine your diaphragm expanding and your chest rising and falling as you repeat the exercise. Just concentrate on your breathing! You can also journal down your thoughts about anything going through your mind as a distraction. 

  • What is working in my life right now, despite any difficulties I'm going through?
  • What things can I look forward to once this stressful period passes?
  • If you could choose any place or scenario (real or imaginary) to place yourself in right now for your relaxation, where would it be?

Ready to get started? Join others in this Chronic Pain challenge!

Day 3: Exercise The Pain Away

Dr. Liu's, a professor of physical therapy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, research and a plethora of other knowledge and experience show that movement is beneficial and therapeutic for practically everyone suffering from chronic pain. However, choosing the ideal activities to help you deal with your specific pain may necessitate combining exercise options, asking the correct questions about why you hurt later and finding the right trainer or physical therapist. 

On the other hand, exercise has been shown to immediately lessen pain and raise people's pain thresholds. Its advantages frequently outweigh other conventional therapy alternatives like massage and stress management.

Once you've received permission from a doctor to exercise, honestly assess your discomfort, life, schedule, dislikes, and budget, as each determines your optimal exercise regimen. Kirsten Ambrose, the Associate Director of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance at the University of North Carolina's Thurston Arthritis Research Center, stated that certain activities may accommodate those with specific disabilities.

Find the exercise that is for you and keep doing it. It will take a long time to see the results, but exercise therapy is all about. For a guided meditation for this day, you can combine mindfulness and breathing exercises with stretching for an added benefit. Many people who suffer from chronic pain benefit from relaxation techniques. Visualization does not require any special equipment and may be performed anywhere. Follow the exercise and breathe deeply, imagining the agony leaving your body with each breath. Answer the following questions:

  • How does my pain feel after a workout?
  • Am I stressing myself out too much, or can I pick up a faster pace?
  • What signs does my body show benefitting from the exercise?

Ready to get started? Join others in this Chronic Pain challenge!

Day 4: Learn to Listen to Your Body 

Mind-body awareness is developed by tuning into feelings, emotions, and physical sensations in the body. For example, if you see signs of exhaustion, you honor your body's requirements by taking a nap as soon as possible. Self-care requires listening to one's body, and cultivating a mind-body connection is never negative.

For many people suffering from chronic illness, "listening to your body" is not a choice but rather the only option. "Listening to your body" becomes just another medium your survival takes on, rather than seeming like a nurturing act of self-care (insert picture of a woman in a bubble bath, wearing a face mask, surrounded by candles). This may include selling their home to cover medical expenditures, while for others, it may entail filing for disability (which isn't a simple or painless procedure). The process of "listening to your body" can be emotionally draining and difficult. It's about dealing with grief with enough grace to avoid drowning in it. It's redefining your life, beliefs, and a sense of purpose in the face of a lot of unknowns.

A body scan visualization is one of the most effective guided meditations. Close your eyes and transport yourself to your happy spot. Then imagine that liquid light is being poured one section at a time over your body. Begin with your head and work your way down to your neck, shoulders, and arms to your hands. See the liquid slowly roll over you, filling you with calm and comfort while pushing out any anxiety, pain, or other negative emotions. This approach reconnects you with your body and your feelings in a way that words alone cannot. Journal down the answers to these questions: 

  • What was my body telling me today?
  • What are the signs my body shows during the pain?
  • How do I feel when my mind keeps me away from the pain?

Ready to get started? Join others in this Chronic Pain challenge!

Day 5: Join Group Therapy 

At first, joining a group for therapy may seem scary, but group therapy has advantages that solo treatment does not. According to psychologists, groups can serve as a sounding board and a source of support. The members of the group will often assist you in developing specific suggestions for addressing a difficult scenario or life difficulty and keep you accountable.

You feel less alone when you're with folks who have chronic pain and understand what you're going through. You can benefit from their experience in dealing with pain. Make an appointment with a mental health specialist as well. When dealing with chronic pain, anyone might get depressed. Counseling can help you learn to cope better and prevent negative ideas that exacerbate pain, resulting in a more positive outlook. 

Guided group meditations can also be beneficial in providing support to you when you shut off the world and do some introspection. Keeping a network is vital as you don't have to face it alone. Here you are, with your last three questions for this challenge:

  • How are people around me dealing with chronic pain?
  • Write a letter to your body.
  • What do I want to tell myself during the bad days?

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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