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First Person Pain Rehabilitation Stress Reduction

Biofeedback: Another Tool in Your Kit

Chronic pain is something that can be treated in many ways.

When I first got migraines, they were sudden and devastating. Within six months I went from perfectly healthy to migraines that lasted days to a week at a time. They were incredibly painful. I was unable to move and barely even able to go to school despite being perfectly healthy before it started.

No medications helped.

One of the first and best things my neurologist did was send me to the Cleveland Clinic Pediatric Pain clinic to work with a clinical psychologist.  One of the most important things that he taught me was biofeedback. 

Biofeedback involves learning how to control the autonomic nervous system consciously.  In other words, how to ‘manually’ do the things your body is supposed to do automatically, like breathing, temperature control, and circulation.  

It was a bit strange at first, honestly.  First there were some basic breathing techniques – just slowing things down and focusing on the in and out.  

Then I was given a card with a sensor that would change color depending on temperature. He told me to relax and “make my hand warm” to try and change the color. It was surprisingly easy – I just made my hands warm. It was like moving your hand. You don’t think, you do.

It’s not exactly intuitive with just those words as instruction but it’s exactly what I needed to do. 

The key to biofeedback is learning to take control of your body’s functions – what it normally does without thinking and doing them yourself. Learning biofeedback is like learning to ride a bicycle. You don’t think about how you keep your balance. To learn, you just practice and just do it, letting things move naturally. If you think about it just doesn’t work and seems impossible. 

The same is true with biofeedback. You practice, you learn, and then you’re doing it without thinking.  But it is something you have to practice.

I’ve found this skill very useful since it helps me relax, and helps the pain dull, the inflammation slow, and make sensitivities more bearable.  It allows me to function through my day. 

It’s something that requires practice to learn. It will not be useful immediately. To start with you will not be able to keep it up when you are in a lot of pain. So practice when you are feeling well or when your pain is low, and work your way up.

It helps you cope and over time helps train your brain to reduce your pain. It’s something that helps me, and I hope will help you to take back your life one step at a time.

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(c) 2021 Nancy Darling