Relaxation and biofeedback are directed toward helping persons with chronic pain become aware of their ability to exert some control over physiologic processes of which they are not normally aware (e.g., muscle tension, heart rate, skin temperature, and respiration). Relaxation, self-hypnosis, and meditation techniques are a form of physiologic self-management. They assist individuals with muscle relaxation and distraction away from pain perception. Biofeedback uses feedback from a device or computer to give information about a person’s progress. This can be particularly useful in headaches and chronic pain in which pain tends to tense muscles, which often causes increased pain due to muscle fatigue.
Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation, which involves selective focusing, receptive concentration, and minimal motor functioning. A National Institutes of Health Technology Panel found strong support for the use of hypnosis for the reduction of pain. Individuals can be taught to use hypnosis on themselves (self-hypnosis) by the Health Guardian, and the use of self-hypnosis can provide pain relief for up to several hours at a time.
There are a variety of meditative practices, with the most studied one for chronic pain being mindfulness-based stress reduction. Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, a way of doing something for yourself that no one else can do for you — consciously and systematically working with your own stress, pain, illness, and the challenges and demands of everyday life.