Imagery is often used interchangeably with the word visualization. It involves taking yourself to another place in your mind, a place without pain. Guided simply means a practitioner is leading you there, audio tapes can also guide you or you can go alone.
Imagery uses imagination to stimulate physiologic changes. This can work because the brain does not seem to distinguish between sensory images and physical reality. Consider your physiologic response to watching a scary movie. Do you experience a racing heart, rapid breathing, and muscle tension? Many people do, despite knowing they are in no real danger. Another example is a men getting an erection while looking at explicit photos. They know she isn’t real, but the effect is the same.
So we know it works, but we need to apply it to our pain. How? It is helpful to have a few sessions with a practitioner to get you started but it can be done alone if you are able to go deep into your imagination.
Here is an exercise for you to try:
Find an area you can be alone in with no distractions, no noise, no TV, no kids. Get into a comfortable position and put all your thoughts away for a while. Just take this time to relax. Take a nice deep breath, blow it out slowly?relax. Tell yourself to be warm, comfortable and relaxed.
Now picture yourself in the place you like best?the beach, on your Grandma’s porch in her rocking chair, beside a lake?next to a glowing campfire. Take a minute to look around you. What do you see? What do you hear? Take a deep breath?what do you smell? Stay in that place for a few minutes?just relaxing.
Feel better now? Less stressed? Less tense? Less pain? You should.
Other visions might include a healthier you. Picture your pain surrounded in cotton or white fluffy clouds. Imagine a beloved pet or favorite person sitting near you, not talking but just be there to support you. Picture your stresses as helium balloons, and release them, one by one. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Small scientific studies have shown imagery to be an effective tool in many areas of healthcare management besides pain and stress relief. Guided imagery has been shown to reduce anxieties and improve self-confidence, improve mood, decrease distress in cancer patients, improve sports performance, and improve smoking cessation rates. It even has been used successfully to increase breast milk production in mothers of premature infants
One of the major advantages of imagery is that we can take it anywhere. No prescription or special tools needed, just our imaginations.
The Arthritis Foundation Guide to Alternative Therapy
Guided Imagery: Closing the Gap between the Mental
& Physical Ability to Control Pain Deb Benner-Hahn RN & Mary Jo Henry RN & Jo Eland PhD RN FNAP FAAN
MIND-BODY THERAPIES FOR PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIANS
Primary Care; Clinics in Office Practice
Volume 24 o Number 4 o December 1997
Copyright ? 1997 W. B. Saunders Company