I haven’t seen much talk about the effect of distraction on managing pain so I thought I would start a new conversation about it.
I was raised to “walk it off!” whenever something happened. Basically (said with tongue firmly in cheek) unless you were bleeding profusely or had a compound fracture my parents told us to “jump up!” and “walk it off!” and “get back in the game!” and “get moving and see how you feel in a hour.”
As it turns out, they were right. There are more and more official studies out there about how “walking it off” and “keeping busy” distracts your brain from pain. Some studies have indicated that the busier your brain is dong other things the less amount of brain space is taken up with the perception of pain. If you search Pain Research Distraction a ton of information comes up.
I know this is true for me. If I can just get to work, I can get distracted, and whatever the current pain is isn’t so bad any longer. Most of the time. Of course there are those days… but this isn’t about that, this is about keeping busy.
I have several hobbies I enjoy, I read constantly, I contribute to blog sites like this one. Keeping busy keeps my perceived pain level down. I’ve even been known to haul myself over to a friend’s house and sit on their sofa in general misery watching their TV instead of my own because it forces me to “get moving” and to interact and interaction helps distract me and reduces the misery.
What about the rest of you? How does distraction work for you? How do you “solider on” through it?
I suffer from atn, and sometimes the distraction of walking, playing piano and teaching piano help me get through the day but with my case the more my mouth moves the more pain. But yes I do believe distraction can help
I actually have recommended distraction as a non-medication pain management tool on several forums.
Distraction was my only tool before I was diagnosed and it is still one of my best tools today. I’ve always had pain, been sick, and generally suffered physically, but 3 years ago when my ATN started one morning without warning my pain went to a new high level that was beyond my ability to deal with. I spent 3 months undiagnosed and most nights during that time I slept 3-5 hours of exhausted sleep that was more like a black out, and woke to my own screaming from the pain. My only solace was my full time job in a museum, which I loved, and TV. I poured every ounce of my minimal energy and damaged brain power into my 8 hours at work. The other 16 hours a day I watched the most mind numbing TV I could find. In those 3 months I watched more reality TV than I have the rest of my life. I couldn’t sleep, and America’s next top model. Wife swap, Say yes to the dress, were the closest I could get to turning my brain off. I was in such a bad state that I couldn’t concentrate on anything with a real plot, but watching people scream at each other over stupid things kept my focus off the pain as much as possible.
Now that I have medications to bring the pain down to a livable level I am learning to balance between keeping distracted and giving my body the rest it needs to function with constant pain.
I went from a full time job to a part time job. I still stay involved in community projects, but I try not to get into leadership positions with long commitments any more. I still spend time with family and friends, but sometimes I have to adjust from vigorous activities to more sedentary ones. I still watch TV some, but I am back to shows with plot lines and subtlety. I listen to audio books and music a lot, if I am alone there is always some sort of, noise, reading material, or other entertainment. I used to value some daily quiet time, but now zero stimulation just leaves room for the pain to take over my awareness. I’ve heard people with chronic pain recommend meditation but that sounds like torture to me.
Even on my “rest days” off from work I fill them with slow and intermittent work on chores and projects around the house.
My worst nightmare would be to be to sit at home alone all the time and do nothing. My depression and my pain would just fester.
I love the show Say Yes to The Dress – in general everyone is so happy, how can you not smile with them? laughter
As for meditation… you may want to try it. Meditation is learning how to relax on cue. I learned to meditate to music in high school and it’s actually served me extremely well over the years. Not only with stress, but with pain, and with getting to sleep. Meditation can teach you to “turn off” or at least “tune out” the world which can help you relax which and help you sleep. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position or anything crazy like that! I lay full out on the bed, get comfy, get my music on, and focus on breathing and not thinking or feeling.
I’ve tried several types of meditation, the only thing that works for me is “self hypnosis” with music playing. Basically you picture images repetitively moving in your mind and relax a little more with each movement, timing movements to your breathing or music if you have that. It was actually something I learned to help with my life long insomnia long before my ATN started. So I guess if that counts I do that almost daily to fall asleep. I tried silent meditation shortly after my ATN started and I just wanted to die, as soon as I emptied my head it seemed PAIN was my only stimuli and it felt 20x worse than before. So I tried these Mantra videos where a guy or gal says a word or phrase 300 times. I could NOT take them seriously, made me giggle and not feel relaxed at all. I suppose I narrow my definition of “meditation” too much. Sitting in silence sounds like torture, and that is what meditation typically meant when well meaning teachers would try it in school when I was growing up.
I have “distraction” from the pain because of my job. I work full time as a classroom music teacher. My TN type 2 is focused on the V3 area, which is affected by talking, singing, eating, etc. For the past few months my pain has been active, and not completely covered .Yes, I can continue, but I am not distracted, and the pain is excruciating.
I am, with the help of my doctors, trying various new combination of therapies and medication. TN has taken many things away from me. I can no longer play flute or bassoon, which I often did, and really enjoyed. I do not feel comfortable eating with anyone unless they are a close friend. I no longer am comfortable singing solos in church, or speaking before a group. People do not understand, and it makes me feel stupid. I will not let it take my job, as I am not ready to retire.
I work through the pain, but no, I do not find that it lessens at all with distraction.
Blessings to you,
Since you’ve done that repetitively moving picture thing have you ever tried the one where you visualize the pain as a big ball of bright color and then slowly visualize the ball either getting dimmer or smaller – as it does it’s supposed to “take the pain away” as well. I’ve done it a few times with various degrees of success, usually I do it when the pain of a migraine is so bad I have to lay down until the meds kick in. While I’m laying there I imagine a bright red circle slowly disappearing. Now, is the pain getting better because I’m imgaining the circle going away? Or is the pain getting better because while I’m doing it the meds are kicking in? I don’t know. But it gives me something to do and the hope that something will work! And there is something relaxing about it and relaxing always help any type of pain.
Those mantra vidoes are a joke to me, too. Makes me grin to even think about it. In college friends and I used to chant “OM… we need a good parking space… OM…OM… we need a good parking space” when driving around the parking lot. So yes, it’s very hard for me to take mantras seriously, although more often than not we did get a good parking spot laughter
---- itwouldntbemakebelie ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ wrote:
I have not tried that. Maybe sometime when I have run out of options, as I often do with this pain. i’ll have to try the parking spot trick too.
This is going to sound crazy, but I made a list of all the various things I do to try to feel better. I posted a copy in my bedroom. It makes me feel more in control. One of my physicians was also trained in acupuncture and medical hypnosis. He has trained me in some acupressure points to help high pain days, and we recorded two of the hypnosis sessions. I can put on headphones and listen to those, which basically are a kind of mindfulness that helps me calm down and relax. Some of the sinus things are because when my sinuses swell (often) it makes the pain higher.
Here’s my list:
What to do to get relief when it seems like nothing is working
Essences/Oils in diffuser or sniff them. (Diffuse lavender or eucalyptus; Sniff Deep Blue by Doterra or Panaway by Young Living)
Lie down in dimmed room with soft music or sounds
Sinusalia (shrinks sinuses…makes GPN feel less impinged)
Warm compress (do not take hot baths or showers if you are on a pain patch…can cause fatal overdose)
Warm bath—if not on pain patch
Ice or Sugar-free Popsicle
Distraction: movie, reading, go for a walk, call a friend
Pray; read the Psalms. My favorite is Psalm 139
Drink lots of water.
Agree fully with “walk it off” motto & maybe you could turn it into a mantra “wwwwaaaallllkkkk iiittttt ooooffffffffffffffff”,
I wouldn’t dismiss mantra’s too quickly, the “OM” should be pronounced more like AUM, plenty on youtube to hear it, This chant can stimulate the Vagus nerve which goes to many major organs including gut and this can stimulate serotonin production hence resulting in a mood uplift, as per study below.
With walking, that has been a key part of our protocol from the start and provides multiple benefits and personally has been one of my habits from childhood, the more often the better.