Aug 4, 2020 — If you successfully learn to relax your pain maybe reduced. Relaxation skills can take a long time to learn and should be practiced every day

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Source: Pain Service Reference No: 6 290 – 1e Issue date: 4/8/17 Review date: 4/8/ 20 Page 1 of 6 Chronic p ain s elf – m anagement Relaxation Stress and the benefits of relaxation Stress is often spoken of in very negative terms but we all need a certain level of stress to function properly. It only becomes a problem when the amount of stress or pressure feels greater than our ability to cope with it. People with chronic pain often highlight the feeling of lack of control over their pain as one of the most stressful aspects of their condition. The amount of stress you feel maybe i nfluenced by three things: The stressful situation How you see the problem and your ability to cope with it The support available from others Stress has an impact on our activities, our thoughts and our feelings but, by considering the three points ab ove, you can learn to manage your stress by: Dealing with the cause of your stress Changing the way you look at the problem Asking for help from family and friends Stress and pressure are a normal part of life but, when you have chronic pain, they ca n make it harder to deal with the problems caused by that chronic pain.

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Page 2 of 6 Practi c ing relaxation Relaxation is a feeling of being calm. Learning to relax involves recognising tension in the body and mind and letting go of that tension. We know people w ith c hronic p ain can experience a lot of muscle spasm or tension as a response to their pain. Relaxation can be very helpful in relieving muscle tension and reducing stress. It is a very important coping strategy. If you successfully learn to relax you r pain maybe reduced. Relaxation skills can take a long tim e to learn and should be practic ed every day and more frequently if you are experiencing a flare up. Relaxation can : R educe the feelings of stress – h elping us to gain more control. R educe pai n – by decreasing muscle tension, aches and pains. – P romote sleep – allow the body to rest peacefully and calm the mind. As you begin to implement the techniques you may well find that your sleep pattern improves, due to a more helpful balance of rest and activity throughout the day. You may also have your own way of relaxing, such as having an enjoyable long bath, massage, aromatherapy or yoga. Relaxation is a skill which needs to be learnt and will improve with practice. Initially the aim is to relax in a quiet environment where you feel comfortable and free from distraction. The techniques, once established, can then be used in alternative environments, for example, at work or on the bus. Relaxation techniques Simple e xercises – these can be practic ed anywhere: 1 Take one good deep breath

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Page 3 of 6 2 Keep breathing slowly and deeply 3 Let your shoulders droop 4 Relax your hands Square b reathing This technique involves using your bre ath whilst at the same time visualising the sequence of your breathing as a square. Each whole breath can be seen as: 1 The in breath 2 A pause as you hold your breath 3 The out breath 4 And a pause before you start the next breath Each stage in the sequen ce can be visualised as a side of the square: 1 Start by having a small pause where you relax your shoulders etc., at this stage you can visualise the bottom of the square. 2 Breathe in to the count of two whilst visualising a side of the square. 3 Hold your breath for the count of one whilst visualising the top of the square. 4 Then breathe out to the count of two whilst visualising the last side of the square. Only do this technique for a maximum of one minute at a time. Elephants 1 Take a breath in to 2 3

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Page 4 of 6 Sand Imagine that you have a grain of sand betwe en your forefinger and your thumb. In order to stop yourself from dropping this grain of sand you have to keep rotating it between your finger and thumb. Allow yourself some time to just focus on the movement of your finger and thumb (approximately thirt y seconds to a minute) and then count how many rotations of this grain of sand you can fit into a whole breath; that is a breath in and a breath out. Please note that you can do this technique for a short period of time, say one minute, or for longer if you wish. As an alternative, you may wish to replace the rotating movement of your finger and thumb with light tapping movements. Deep m uscle r elaxation This takes about 10 minutes. 1 Get prepared a. Find somewhere quiet, perhaps with some soothing music. b. Make yourself comfortable si tting in a chair or lying down. c. Clos e your eyes and breathe deeply. d. Relax your body and let it go all loose and floppy. 2 Relax your muscles As you breathe in and out, relax all the major muscle groups in turn starting wi th your feet. Is there any tension? If there is release it and relax, at the same time calves, bottom and so on. Calm your thoughts Distract your mind by thinking about a relaxation, pleasant scene or p l aying some soothing music. For example: Imagine that you are in the countryside on a sunny summer afternoon. Imagine that you are slowly walking on your own through a field

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Page 5 of 6 You can feel the warmth of the sun stream ing down from the blue sky. You can see the grass, the trees and the flowers in the field. Feel the ground beneath you as you walk and walk slowly, looking at everything around you. Think about what you can see, hear, smell and touch. Focus all of your thoughts on this scene and remove any other thoughts or worries which may come to your mind. Spend five minutes fully relaxed, physically and mentally. When you finish a session of relaxation and want to get up, count backwards from four to one. Breathing When you are in pain the way that you breathe is very important. This may sound ou are in pain your breathing pattern may change, this can lead to tension. We know that tension can make your pain worse. The exercise below can help you to think about your breathing, making sure it is slow and relaxed – relieving the tension. The di aphragm is a band of muscle just below your lungs, which helps you to breathe by moving up and down, forcing air in and out of the lungs. There is a technique in which you deliberately use your diaphragm to control your breathing called diaphragmatic bre athing. 1 Make sure you are comfortable. 2 Make sure that your back is well supported and put one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach. This will help you to feel when your stomach/chest moves. 3 Close your eyes and concentrate on your bre athing. 4 Notice how quickly you are breathing and try and slow it down. 5 Take a long, slow, relaxed breath in through your nose. Push your stomach out (this helps your lungs to fill up) and feel the air gliding slowly down into your lungs. 6 Hold your brea th for a few seconds, then slowly breathe out through your mouth, with your lips slightly parted. Let your stomach fall this helps get rid of the air from your lungs. 7 Repeat

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Page 6 of 6 8 Think about your neck and shoulders is there any tension there? If there is , bring your shoulders up towards your ears, then slowly lower them back down, loosening any tension. 9 Check for feelings of tension anywhere else in your body. 10 Focus on your breathing again, taking slow, relaxed breaths in through your nose and out throu gh your mouth. Imagine the tension flowing away with every breath out. Remember Using relaxation is a reliable and positive method of making progress in managing your pain. It makes you feel good. It helps you to sleep naturally. It becomes more ef fective the more you use it. Stick with it! If you would like any information regarding access to the West Suffolk Hospital and its facilities please visit the website for AccessAble (the new name for DisabledGo) https://www.accessable.co.uk/organisations/west – suffolk – nhs – foundation – trust © West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Paddock House, Eye 0333 321

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