Relaxation calms the mind and recharges the body. 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 and our pain sites, which can make the pain worse. Relaxation can help break the pain-tension cycle.
There are many forms of relaxation techniques so find one that works best for you.
Ideally, begin with deep breathing. Shallow, rapid breathing results from tension. Deep breathing helps relax you. Learning deep breathing reduces muscle tension thereby lessening pain. To begin, find a quiet warm place, where you won't be disturbed. Once this technique is learnt it can follow you into any situation you are in.
- Make yourself comfortable
- Loosen any tight clothing
- Begin by listening to your breathing without changing its natural pattern
- Breathe through your nose (or mouth if your nose is blocked)
- Put your hands over your stomach area and feel your hands 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 out, imagine your tensions are being breathed away. Every time you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in peace
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
Using imagery with relaxation helps to distract your mind from stressful thoughts
- Make yourself comfortable i.e. lie down on your back, turn on your side or sit up straight, balanced on your chair with feet at shoulder width.
- Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Take deep, slow, full breaths
- Think of your own special place - your favourite place in the whole world. A place you can go to escape everything. It can be a real place, or a made up spot.
- Imagine yourself lying comfortably in your own special spot. You feel completely at home there
- Become aware of your senses. Look around you. What colours do you see?
- What sounds do you hear? What smells are in the air? Feel the ground beneath you. What textures can you feel? Imagine the temperature is nice and warm. You are feeling content.
- Look around you. Gently focus on something that catches your eye. Spend a few moments thinking about your special spot.
- When you are ready, end your visualization and gently bring your attention back to the room and your breathing.
Muscle tension is related to the stress response. By creating and releasing muscle tension, you will feel calmer and more relaxed. It raises the threshold of tolerance to pain and is an effective way of coping with the stress and anxiety associated with chronic pain.