iCBT Program for Chronic Pain

Module 6. Relaxation and Chronic Pain

Chronic pain induces suffering in the forms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Relaxation techniques can activate our bodies natural fighting mechanisms against these various forms of suffering.

In this module, you will learn about the techniques used to help our bodies relax when we are suffering from chronic pain.

Relaxation exercises…

  • calm your mind
  • reduce stress hormones in your blood
  • relax your muscles
  • elevate your sense of well-being

Using these exercises regularly can lead to long-term changes in your body to counteract the harmful effects of stress, anxiety and depression.

relaxed woman

Relaxation Technique #1

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This is deep breathing that allows the use of the diaphragm completely.

Lie down on your back with your knees bent in.

Breathe in through your nose, and as you take a breath in allow your stomach to expand with air.

Visualize a balloon where your stomach is, placing a hand on your stomach feel the balloon inflate slowly.

Exhale slowly through your mouth allowing your body to release all the air, before starting the process again.

Hint: your chest should not move up and down. All the movement should occur in your stomach.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Relaxation Technique #2

Body Scanning Meditation

For this method of meditation, lie down somewhere comfortable and quiet, close your eyes and breathe deeply.

Beginning at your feet, visualize the muscles relaxing, feel the pain leaving them as if it was being pulled out.

Moving up through the body, muscle by muscle, continue to feel the muscles relaxing as a wave washes the pain away.

Body Scanning Meditation

Relaxation Technique #3

Guided Imagery

Imagery is using all of your senses to imagine a situation, place, or feeling.

There are 3 specific types of imagery you can use to help with pain.

These are associative imagery, dissociative imagery, and altered focus imagery.

Associative Imagery

In this type of imagery, the focus is on the area of pain. You can imagine the feeling, the touch, the temperature, the look of the area beneath the skin, etc.

The most effective way to use this method is to visualize the parts of the body in pain beneath the skin, and see them beginning to heal as you perform this relaxation exercise.

Stretch the area of pain. Feel the muscles relaxing, or see the swelling leaving the area. As you stretch, visualize the pain as a string stretching with the muscle until it breaks and with it, the pain is gone.

Practice the exercises using associative imagery one day this week.

Dissociative Imagery

This type of imagery is the opposite of associative imagery.

Instead, think of something completely unrelated to pain while doing the exercises.

Maybe sing a song in your head and think of nothing but the lyrics. Try to hear the singer's voice in your head. Let your thoughts drift away from the pain, and if they trail back, consciously visualize other things.

Try using this dissociative imagery with your exercises one day this week.

Altered Focus Imagery

In this type of imagery, focus on a part of your body that is not related to the pain.

Focus on how that part of your body feels, how the ground or chair feels beneath it. Focus on a sensation of heat in that area, and then try making it feel cooler with your thoughts.

Continue to focus on the sensations in that part of the body while stretching.

Try using altered focus imagery one day this week.

At the end of 3 days, after you have used one imagery type per day, compare how they all helped and try using the most helpful for the rest of the week.

Take notes on which type of imagery you felt was the most beneficial, and what relieved your pain the best, and continue on with these techniques.

Homework for Module 6

This week's homework will involve a physical component, as well as a written component.

We will start off with a relaxation exercise, which you are to do once a day for 7 days.

Next, you will fill out a relaxation diary once a day for 7 days.

Relaxation Activity - Homework

Sit or lie down in a quiet room without any electronics, people, or other distractions. Using diaphragmatic breathing, begin to slow your breathing down, inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 4 seconds. Once you have cleared your mind of any thoughts, turn your attention to your heart.

Notice the beat of your heart and consciously slow it down to match your breathing. Imagine your heart and lungs both beating and expanding in unison. Move to your muscles. Feel all the tension being pulled out of them like a masseuse is in the room with you relaxing every muscle in your body.

Feel your energy calming as your heart rate and breathing slow down. Allow your body to begin feeling light, as if it is being filled with helium to take off like a balloon. Focus on how light your head feels and imagine your pain flowing out like water down your body, across your arms and out of the finger tips.

Starting at your head, slowly move down through the body, relaxing every muscle. Go into the neck, traveling into your shoulders and down both arms. Feel your heart beating slowly in your chest and as your stomach expands with every breath, filling you with fresh air. Feel as the relaxation washes over your lower back into the buttox, down your thighs, across both knees, down into your calves, and out your feet.

Relaxation Diary - Homework

Click here to download the Relaxation Diary

 


Exercises for Different Areas of Pain from Wilderman Medical Clinic

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