Mind Over Pain?

By David Spero | September 10, 2008 4:46 pm

Last week[1], we reported on ways to help or relieve chronic pain by treating the part of the body that hurts. This week, we’ll discuss some effective things you can do to treat pain with your mind.

Remember that all sensations, whatever their cause, are felt and interpreted in the brain. Feelings, thoughts, and other sensations get mixed with the pain signals and determine how much you hurt.


In wartime, soldiers’ wounds are often less painful than the same wounds would be in a civilian. Why? Because the wounds signify that the wounded soldier will soon be going home, but the civilian’s injury is a source of fear and anxiety. This is known as the “Anzio effect,”[2] after the battle of Anzio, where it was first noted.

When pain is a source of fear, anger, or grief, it usually hurts more. Cancer patients may experience worse pain, because they fear it means their disease is worsening or that they may be dying. How we think about our pain has a major effect on how bad the pain feels. So what can we do about it?

Mental Pain Relief

You will probably learn some strategies that will help. But there is much more you can do for chronic pain, including medications and pain programs, as we’ll get to next week.

Have any readers tried mental techniques like these? How have they worked for you? Have you learned from others who have written in? If you try the guided imagery, let us know how it goes. I really thank everyone who has written in about their pain experiences. You can see more about imagery and self-care at my Web site, www.davidsperorn.com[11].

  1. Last week: http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/David_Spero/Self_Managing_Chronic_Pain_Part_1
  2. “Anzio effect,”: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,926568-6,00.html
  3. neuropathy: http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/articles/Diabetes_Definitions/Neuropathy
  4. Chronic Disease Self-Management Program: http://patienteducation.stanford.edu/programs/cdsmp.html
  5. laughter: http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/David_Spero/Laugh_With_Me
  6. Imagery: http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.asp?Id=390
  7. prayer: http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/articles/Alternative_Medicine_Complementary_Therapies/Spiritual_Self_Care_and_the_Use_of_Prayer
  8. progressive muscle relaxation: http://stress.about.com/od/generaltechniques/ht/howtopmr.htm
  9. Glove anesthesia: http://www.bcx.net/hypnosis/articles/paincontrol.html
  10. Talking with your pain: http://www.imagerynet.com/articles/symptom.html
  11. www.davidsperorn.com: http://www.davidsperorn.com

Source URL: http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/mind-over-pain/

David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 32 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 25 years. He is author of two books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), and Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis – Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006). He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Arthritis Self-Management magazines. He is a project director with New Health Partnerships: Improving care by Engaging Patients, a project of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

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