Meditation has always been helpful to me, but I have often found the techniques to be either to simple (read boring!) or too complex or time consuming!
Below is something I like very much because it is simple (but not too simple) and not too complex, and only takes 20 minutes. I found it in the book: The Challenge of Pain by Ronald Melzack and Patrick D. Wall.
In it, they describe the psychological and clinical aspects of pain and present evidence and examine the major theories of pain and their implications of its control. One of most essential components of pain management is relaxation.
Here is an exercise you can do to get some of the same benefits you would get from doing meditation - see below, or just skip to the exercise.
Relaxation is an essential component of most forms of therapy for pain. It decreases the activity of the sympathetic and motor nervous systems (Benson et al., 1977; Jessup and Gallegos, 1994). Most of us are usually caught up in a state of tension and stress in a competitive world, so that we are constantly prepared for an emergency or 'fight-or-flight response'. This psychological stress produces muscle tension, as well as increased blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and adrenalin outflow. All of this activity feeds into the nervous system and produces feelings of tension and irritability and may produce pain directly (such as tension headaches and backaches) or indirectly by facilitating activity in neuron pools that project pain signals to the brain.
Benson and his colleagues have proposed that the 'relaxation response' is the basis of all meditative practices Relaxation, they suggest, induces the subjective experience of well-being which is often referred to as an 'altered state of consciousness'. In contrast to Jacobson's method of 'progressive relaxation', in which people are taught to relax individual muscles groups in progression throughout a therapy session, Benson et al., (1977, p.442), have developed a simple technique based on a variety of historical religious practices. Their instructions for this non-cultic technique are the following:
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes
- Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them deeply relaxed.
- Breathe through your nose (if you can. If not just breathe comfortably). Become aware of your breathing. As you breath out, say the word one silently to yourself. For example, breathe in ...out, one; in...out, one; etc. Continue for twenty minutes. You may open your eyes or check the time, but do not use an alarm. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes at first with closed eyes and later with opened eyes.
- Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. Expect other thoughts. When these distracting thoughts occur, ignore them by thinking 'Oh well' and continue repeating 'one'. With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the subjective changes.
This simple technique has now been shown (Benson et al., 1977) to produce striking physiological changes characteristic of deep relaxation, such as decreased metabolism and lower blood pressure and respiration rate.
Are relaxation procedures effective for pain? Cox et al., (1975) found that relaxation is more effective than a placebo for the relief of tension headache, and this conclusion is generally supported by other evidence (Turner and Chapman, 1982). Recently Philips (1987) has shown relaxation therapy produces significant decreases in a wide range of clinical pains, including low back pain. Relaxation procedures are easy to teach, and Philips makes a strong case fro their inclusion as part of all therapeutic programs for severe chronic pain.
This excerpt is from: The Challenge of Pain by Ronald Melzack and Patrick D. Wall., from the updated 2nd edition, page 245, Penguin Books
Go to the link below to find former UVic psychologist Mary Jane McLachlan leading you through a relaxation exercise that uses breathing and imagery. From the University of Victoria's website
Click this link for the audio:
If you have any questions, message or call me!