Everyone has experienced physical pain at some point in their lives. It’s an everyday occurrence for most people, with so many different types of pain. That’s why it’s one of the most common reasons people will see their doctor.
A large part of the experience of pain is driven by our brains. When you are hurt in some way, say you accidently touch something which is too hot, the pain receptors in your hand send a signal to your brain, which in turn makes you move your hand away from the hot object. This is known as acute pain, although there are other forms of pain as well. Chronic pain is something experienced by many people, and is characterised by pain lasting for longer than 12 weeks. Researchers are yet to determine exactly where this type of pain is processed in the brain, however recent studies have shown that we are able to change our experience of the pain.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is using the principles of mindfulness. To be mindful is to be aware of everything that is happening around. This may sound counterintuitive at first, as it suggests you have to be aware of the pain, but mindfulness also requires you to not focus on just one aspect of what you’re currently experiencing, instead focussing on the bigger picture. It’s almost too easy for us to focus solely on the pain we’re currently experiencing and begin to ignore everything else, but by doing this we’re actually allowing all of our attention to focus on the pain, exasperating our experience of it. If you want to learn more about mindfulness, we’ve written other articles on our website which go into much more detail.
Another strategy to help manage pain helps us to stop ruminating on the pain. By learning to accept the pain as a part of our experience, we are able to allow ourselves to focus on what we need to do that day. If every time we feel pain, we try to stop ourselves thinking about, it can actually create a downward spiral, where we focus more of our attention on the pain, in turn making it more prominent in our minds. Instead, when we start to feel the pain, if we accept it as being present, and then move on with whatever we were doing, we can stop this process and manage the pain more effectively. Like mindfulness, we also have more articles on the process of acceptance, if you would like to learn more.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with managing their pain and would like to talk to one our psychologists at BayPsych Consultants, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone on 3488 0483 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org