THE NEW YORK TIMES: How to Block Out Pain
“Pain is a personal experience, and success comes from self-management,” says David Tauben, clinical professor in the department of pain medicine at the University of Washington. Respond to pain calmly — worry and fear activate the neural pathways through which pain travels and can amplify the sensations that cause it in the first place. Because pain has both mental and physical components, some researchers who study it combine psychology with the physical effects. “Be careful of negative thoughts and worrying,” Tauben says. “If it’s difficult to control them, find a professional to help you, like a psychologist or counselor.”
Ask yourself if the pain needs urgent medical attention or if it is something you can self-manage. “It is important to understand the difference between danger and damage,” Tauben says. If you sense danger, seek trusted medical attention immediately to get a diagnosis. Otherwise, deep breathing and relaxation techniques can help in the short term, while “visual, auditory or breathing exercises to calm the pain system are helpful — diaphragmatic breathing to relax or yoga or tai chi help,” Tauben says. “If you think your pain is a disaster, you’ll behave like it’s a disaster.” Basic lifestyle choices, like a healthy diet and exercise, can influence pain self-management in the long-term. A behavioral-health trainer or physical therapist might also be able to help.