These 4 mind-body techniques can relieve chronic pain without medication.
2 of 5 | Guided Imagery
These exercises can help alleviate all kinds
of pain by recalibrating the mind, reminding us that the peace that exists outside of pain is still accessible, says Davenport. Advances in neuroscience also confirm that guided imagery can access the brain’s “natural pharmacy,” releasing opiatelike substances that reduce pain. The practice also helps relax muscles and reduce stress.
“We know that if you’re imagining something, your body reacts the same way as if it were actually happening,” says Davenport. And while you can work with a certified imagery practitioner (go to academyforguidedimagery.com to find one), it’s not necessary. “You can absolutely learn guided imagery on your own,” she says.
1. Sit or lie comfortably. “The key is being
a combination of relaxed and alert,” says Davenport, who recommends using imagery when the pain is coming on, rather than when it’s at peak intensity.
2. Allow an image to form of a relaxing, peaceful place, indoors or out. It might be
an open field of flowers, a quiet room, a mountain or even a cloud. The important thing is that the image be a place that you personally find relaxing.
3. Fully engage all of your senses as you imagine this restful spot. “Notice the sounds that are part of this environment,” suggests Davenport. “Feel the temperature. Breathe
in the aromas. Observe the quality of the light and the variety of colors.” Not only does engaging the senses make the image more real and vivid, but it also engages the more intuitive right hemisphere of the brain, which increases relaxation.
4. Once you have fully imagined your environment, notice how you’re feeling.
One of Davenport’s patients who suffered from fibromyalgia would imagine herself floating in the warm, salty waters of the Caribbean. She imagined the buoyancy of the water taking the pressure off her joints and the warm water providing relief from the constant ache that spread from her spine to her knees. This patient found that if she spent about 20 minutes “floating,” she could then spend several hours pain-free. She would also often “float” into sleep at the end of the day.
5. Stay in this soothing place for at least 15 minutes, or more if you can.