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Benefits of Guided Imagery for Pain Management

If you have chronic pain, you know how difficult it can be. It might feel like it’s taking over your life. Chronic pain can lead to increased stress, poor sleep, depression, mobility issues, and other health problems. Even acute pain can have a significant negative effect on your life and overall functioning.

Pain management experts understand pain and how to treat it. There are many options for pain relief, and the pain management specialists at Beaumont have many tools to work with to help you with your pain. Whether you have short-term, acute pain or long-term, chronic pain, we are here to help you. 

In addition to traditional pain management techniques, we will often suggest alternative therapies to help you manage your pain. One of those therapies is called guided imagery. 

What is guided imagery?

Guided imagery, otherwise known as visualization, is a relaxation technique that aims to help lower the levels of stress hormones like cortisol in your body. It is a mind-body technique that helps improve your physical health and overall wellness through the power of guided thoughts and images. 

The idea behind guided imagery is that if you can envision your pain leaving your body, your brain may be able to achieve pain relief. The process of guided imagery is meant to calm your sympathetic nervous system. It can slow your body’s tendency to go into “fight or flight” mode, which ultimately reduces stress hormones and helps improve your overall health. Your fight or flight response is important in dangerous situations, but if your body activates it unnecessarily over an extended period, inflammation in your body tends to increase, which can contribute to all sorts of problems – including arthritis pain and other types of pain.

Guided imagery involves closing your eyes, trying to relax, and imagining a scene that involves each of your senses – sight, hearing, smelling, tasting – and thinking, feeling, and visualizing yourself within that scene. This helps put you into a deeply relaxed state where you can imagine your body as you wish it would be. Imagine any scene that makes you feel peaceful or happy or youthful or alive. It could be the beach, the forest, on a mountain, in the pool, or in a large city, immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, and energy of your surroundings. It could be you running through a field of flowers, golfing on a beautiful course, swimming, biking, or doing anything you love to do, and imaging that you’re doing any of those things without pain or discomfort distracting you. The idea is that you will immerse yourself in that scene so successfully that you will believe you can accomplish it, and the process will increase relaxation, reduce stress, and decrease pain perception.

What are the benefits of guided imagery for pain relief?

Many people find relief from pain using guided imagery. It can be so effective that many natural childbirth instructors recommend it to their students to increase relaxation and reduce pain during labor.  

Several studies have shown that guided imagery can provide significant relief for people who have painful chronic health conditions like arthritis. A 2015 article published in the journal of Pain Management Nursing reviewed seven randomized-controlled trials that studied whether guided imagery was effective for arthritis and other joint diseases. Authors found that all seven studies showed that guided imagery led to significant pain reduction, and it improved mobility issues and reduced the use of pain medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

If you suffer from chronic or acute pain, guided imagery may help. If you have arthritis, guided imagery may reduce your reliance on medications for pain and sleep. Guided imagery offers many other benefits as well – without negative side effects – including:

  • Increasing your relaxation
  • Reducing stress hormones and feelings of stress
  • Improving your sleep
  • Reducing your need for certain medications*

All these things can help reduce pain perception and increase pain tolerance.

*If you take any medications, you should talk to your doctor before stopping.

Can guided imagery help with my arthritis pain?

The chronic joint pain associated with arthritis and other joint disorders can be difficult to manage. Pain, difficulty sleeping, and mobility issues are only a few of the problems people who suffer from arthritis can face. While medications and physical therapy can go a long way toward addressing arthritis pain, there are some alternative medicine options that can offer significant relief from pain and associated symptoms. One of those options is guided imagery. 

Pain Management at Beaumont 

Beaumont's Centers for Pain Medicine use the latest technology and pain management procedures to help patients with all forms of pain. We provide holistic treatment, individually tailored to meet each person’s pain management needs. Using the latest technology and often incorporating alternative therapy and physical therapy in our pain management programs, we offer interventions to reduce pain severity, improve quality of life, and increase physical functioning. 

Make an appointment

If you’re experiencing any type of pain, we can help. Pain management specialists at Beaumont are committed to delivering the highest quality of integrated care. 

To schedule an appointment, call Beaumont Integrative Medicine at 248-964-9200.