"Jon is a great help and
relief for people who have chronic and acute pain . . .
he's like a gift from God to the patients . . . a great
resource." Hospital Nurse
Complementary and Integrative Pain
Version (PDF 2 pages)
Many people don't realize how valuable non-pharmacological methods
are in the treatment of pain. Some approaches use sensation to
overcome the pathways pain travels between the place of hurt and the
brain. Here a couple examples of this: Use ice on a swollen ankle to
cool the tissue. Rub your hurt hand after banging it. The ice and
rubbing pressure over rides some of the pain messages traveling to
Certainly many pain conditions give you stress, and stress can
aggravate pain. Approaches that help lower stress are valuable
complementary therapies. Relaxation can help pain medicines work
quicker and last longer. It is possible with deep relaxation
practice to release the body's natural pain medicine, endorphins.
A good belly laugh or exercise can also release these pain-fighting
Behavioral pain management approaches like learning to say no and
not feel guilty, grief work around loss of health, and pacing
activity and rest, can use one's own actions and reactions as
important tools to help ourselves control pain instead of pain
It is important to know why pain is present, it can be a warning
sign of danger, such as chest pain or the pain of a broken bone.
Discuss your pain problem with your health care provider.
These are some examples of complementary therapies that can a
valuable part of your pain treatment plan.
Abdominal breathing Let your abdomen be soft and gently
rise with the inhale and fall with the exhale. If this is difficult
for you to do, try blowing out all the air from the lungs and the
next breath will usually be abdominal. An alternative focus: If
there is pain in the abdomen, or anxiety about breathing in general,
let the belly be soft but notice the air at the tip of the nose go
in and out.
Activity-Rest Cycling In chronic pain and recovery from a
health problem, over-activity when you start to feel better is
common, but can end up triggering more pain. You've been sick,
frustrated in bed, start to feel better and you push to get things
done. This pushing can actually trigger a cycle of more pain. This
disappointing setback slows a person again, which leads to further
frustration. A suggestion for a person in lingering pain can be to
be active but then rest before you get too tired or rest before the
pain gets severe. Continue active-rest cycling throughout the day.
Acupuncture Research shows that as part of a comprehensive
pain treatment plan a trained, certified acupuncture practitioner
can place a series of very thin needles and provide relief for
postoperative dental pain; headaches; tennis elbow; menstrual
cramps; carpal tunnel syndrome and addictions.
Assertive communication training Strengthen your
speaking and listening skills. It OK to ask for what you want. One
might not always get what they want but the chances certainly go up
by asking. OK to ask questions and seek information. OK to say no
and not feel guilty. Assertive communication is open, honest, direct
Brief progressive muscle relaxation Starting from head
to feet, or feet to head (in general start away from the pain);
gently tensing and relaxing muscle groups. AVOID tensing muscles
directly around the pain. An alternative method is to gently relax
your muscles without first tensing. "I am bringing my awareness to
my right foot and letting the muscles of my right foot soften and
relax. Letting them become warm and heavy." Let the bed or chair
support your body.
Calming Self-Statements You can learn to replace overly
negative thought patterns that contribute to mental distress and
increased pain with calming self-statements. The "I can't do
anything any more," becomes "I may not be able to do certain things,
but there are plenty of other activities that I can enjoy." People
with pain can be on the lookout for overly negative thoughts, and
substitute calming self-statements Note the effect these new
thoughts have on your mood and pain. This calming thinking can cut
down on anxiety and depression.
Cold Packs/Heating Pads Good for lower back pain and
cramps. Try alternating heat, rest and cold. See if cold or heat
alone can help you. Be careful not to burn your skin.
Counseling 80% of people with chronic pain become
depressed at some point. Speaking with a professional you trust, can
help in coping with the normal difficult feelings that arise with
loss of health and/or the ability to do what you want to do. For
example having a down day is not unusual for most people, but when
the down day stretches into three or more days, that can be a time
to ask for help.
Distraction Techniques There are many examples of
distraction techniques people with pain have found helpful. "Focal
point," concentrating on one point and blocking everything else out.
Counting backwards. Art. Journeying. Music. TV. Videos or audio
tapes. Hobbies. Word games. A change of scenery gets your mind off
things. Pet therapy. Humor and having fun. Getting out in nature.
What can you add?
Environmental change Adjusting room temperature.
Organize, clear your space. Adjust lighting. Lower sound of TV, and
other sounds that may be too distracting.
Exercise Chronic pain inhibits activity. Though
difficult at first, exercise can improve chronic pain. Consider a
physical therapy consultation for an exercise plan.
Humor, fun, enjoyment Some times when we hurt we
eliminate the fun things in life, but think about when you felt good
and you did fun things. You felt BETTER. Feeling better is what pain
management is about.
Massage therapy from a skilled, trained practitioner can help
with many types of muscular pain.
Pain education Learn the importance of pain scales and
use one when communicating with your health care team. Learn the
best schedules about taking pain medications. Learn about side
effects of pain medicines and what YOU can do about them. Gain an
understanding of information about your health problem (s). Ask
questions and get information about tests and procedures. Learn
about the effects of stress on pain. Looking over this website is a
Relaxation Techniques Meditation, biofeedback, guided
imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, hypnosis are
mind/body self-regulatory skills beneficial in pain management.
Service to others who are suffering. Being present in a
concerned way with another person who is hurting can sometimes make
our problems seem less.
Shifting Positions Take time to find a more comfortable
position. Use pillows for body posture support. Too much time in bed
can drain a person physically. Be careful not to push yourself too
hard and overdo it.
Social support Enjoy time with family, and friends. If
people want to give to you let them. Be careful not to become
overtired. Some people find speaking with a close female friend can
be very supportive. Medical support groups can be beneficial and
people can share experience, strength and hope with one another.
Spiritual-Religious practices Is religion or
spirituality important to you? For some it is, for some it isn't. How
about you? If yes, a minister or representative from your home
church/synagogue can be comforting. Many religious faiths encourage
practices like attending services, prayer, spiritual study, that
help with coping with pain or illness. Hospital chaplains are
available. They can help a person find meaning in their current life
Stress management education This teaches about the
connection between stress and physical problems. Relaxation
training, stress coping and pain management strategies are taught.