Envisioning Life After Back PainAug 17, 2021
If you have spent large periods of time living with debilitating pain, it can be challenging to imagine what life is like without the constant cries from your body. But life after chronic pain is possible (trust us, we’ve seen dozens of clients through to the other side!) - and imagining yourself living a pain free life can actually help ease (and in some cases, eliminate!) pain symptoms.
Visualization, also sometimes called guided imagery, is a powerful way to rewire your brain and is a common tool used in the athletic world - but its benefits go far beyond performance. Visualization is exactly what it sounds like - imagining yourself doing a specific activity or skill. It is an astounding practice in that when you imagine yourself doing something, the same parts of your brain that would be activated during the activity, can be activated simply by thinking about the activity.
Imagining yourself living without pain, then, can actually help your brain do just that - live without pain and reestablish a healthier relationship to your body! (to learn more about pain and your brain: read Understanding the Language of Pain)
Visualization may seem too simple to be effective, but many studies have shown that guided imagery for pain relief can:
- Temporarily remove the focus away from your pain, providing immediate (although temporary) relief
- Calms your nervous system, helping you to relax and destress
- Helps eliminate fear around your pain
- Can significantly reduce pain related anxiety
- May improve sleep, which also leads to additional healing and repair time for your body and nervous system
HOW TO ENVISION YOUR LIFE WITHOUT (BACK) PAIN
- In a quiet and relaxing environment, find a comfortable seated or lying position (use yoga props or pillows to find comfort, if necessary). Close your eyes and take a few moments to connect with your breath, inhaling through your nose deep into your diaphragm, and exhaling long and slow.
- Start to imagine yourself in a relaxing environment - maybe a beach, forest, or one of your other favorite locations where you feel safe and at ease.
- Start to imagine and build the environment in your head. What kind of sounds can you hear? What textures do you notice in your scenery? Imagine running your hands on surfaces in your relaxing location of choice - what sensations do you feel on your skin?
- Spend as much time as you need imagining your environment until you feel calm, safe, and relaxed.
- When you’re ready, start to imagine yourself participating in activities that normally cause pain - but most importantly - imagine yourself doing them without any pain. Notice how your body moves without the restriction of pain. Notice what emotions come up for you when you move without pain - can you feel joy, ease, calmness, excitement, or other emotions?
- Continue imagining yourself moving without pain for as long as you are comfortable doing so. Even 1-minute of pain-free visualization can have a huge impact on your well-being.
- If any anxiety comes up during your practice, bring your attention back to the relaxing elements in the environment that you created at the beginning of your session.
MORE TIPS FOR MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN
- Visualization is safe to practice frequently. Setting aside time to practice 2-4 times a week can help you get more out of your practice.
- Try these unconventional exercises for LBP (low back pain)
- Treat yourself with kindness - you’re doing great!
- Know that you don’t have to tackle your pain alone. If you’d like more support, schedule a free consultation to learn how one of our pain-informed coaches can help you on your journey.
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