Managing Pain with Guided Imagery

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Guided imagery is based on an understanding that pain is both physical and mental in nature. It’s a pain management technique that involves shifting your mental focus to something positive. It can be as simple as a picturing yourself effortlessly completing a 5K run race free of pain or as detailed as imagining healthy cells helping to heal the tissues around your joints. For some individuals, guided imagery can ease stress and create a better environment internally for healing and promote overall relaxation.
How Does Guided Imagery Work?
Sometimes called visualization, guided imagery involves all of the five senses, not just vision. It works by using the power of the imagination to stimulate your senses. Some patients with chronic pain use guided imagery to picture their pain in a ball that’s separate from their body. They might picture themselves grabbing that ball of pain and tossing it far away. For the purpose of pain management, guided imagery can be performed with the following steps:

  • Finding a quiet, comfortable place
  • Taking a few deep breaths to get into a relaxed state
  • Focusing on a peaceful, positive setting
  • Immersing yourself deep into your visualization and imaging the sounds, smells, and tastes around you
  • Associating your calming imagery with certain words so you can easily bring yourself back to your calm setting mentally

What Can It Be Used For?
Since stress is a contributing to many different conditions, including low back pain, neck and shoulder tension, and high blood pressure, guided imagery can be used by patients dealing with discomfort from a variety of sources. Athletes may use this technique to imagine their joints and muscles working together in perfect harmony just before a match or competition. Patients recovering from surgery sometimes use it to keep their mind of off their pain while their body heals.
What Are Potential Benefits?
The benefits of having a positive mental state of mind and how this relates to overall health and well-being have been well-documented over the years. There’s research suggesting that just ten minutes of hypnotic guided meditation can lower A1C levels in the blood, ease stress, and help control blood pressure. Guided imagery has also been shown to reduce the perception of pain. It may even help patients get their weight down to a healthy level. Doing so can ease stress on joints and minimize related pain from pressure on joints and nerves.
Guided imagery is about taking control of your emotions. If you are able to do this effectively, you may have a better attitude about your pain. In some instances, patients that practice mental techniques like this are able to take more of an active role in other therapies and pain management methods. Guided imagery is something anyone can do. It’s widely considered to be safe and highly adaptable to many uses. It’s also something that can be done anywhere with the right mental focus. Talk to your pain doctor about whether or not it may be a good option for you