I’d like to share the success story of Heather, a participant who joined a pain management intervention I delivered as part of a pilot study with University of West London.
Goals of the pain management intervention
The intervention had three goals.
1- To reduce stress and anxiety
This is very important as pain levels are heightened during periods of stress and pain flares occurs during emotional turmoil. This is because stress causes the body to tense, therefore leading to more pain.
2 – To relieve pain
Sophrology has many different techniques which do not necessarily involve focusing on pain directly. One can use visualisations that take a person away from the pain or breathing exercises that will focus the mind and dampen pain levels. Of course, after a certain amount of training it is possible to directly focus on pain. For these types of exercises, sophrology also offers different approaches which are very flexible and adaptable.
3- To improve quality of life
This is so important as over time a vicious cycle forms for people living in chronic pain. Initially, being in pain leads to emotions of fear and worrying thoughts which lead to more body tensions, therefore more pain. As the cycle repeats, a person experiences more and more unpleasant emotions and negative thoughts and it alters their behaviours and transform them. The practice of sophrology can help break this cycle.
To achieve the goals I taught participants simple techniques to use in their everyday life:
- to reconnect with their body
- to relax, feel calmer and release tensions
- to manage pain levels
- to re-inforce positive sensations and perceptions
Ultimately the aim was to introduce participants to a range of tools and exercises and let them discover which ones worked for them. They were free to adapt their practice and integrate the exercises in their daily life in a way that worked for them, taking control of their own wellbeing.
A participant’s view on the intervention
Heather benefited for the experience and she agreed to share her views with me.
She was initially anxious about her capacity to follow the intervention as her health was not that great at the time it started. However, those worries quickly dissipated when she realised how flexible and adaptable Sophrology is and when I made it clear that each participant could take it at their own pace. It put her mind at ease and she felt safe to start her own journey.
Heather was also a bit nervous about doing the sessions on Zoom but she realised after the first session that online delivery worked very well and still allowed the connection with the group.
Regarding the results she achieved, Heather reckons that both her mental health and physical health have improved through the intervention.
The 8-week course had a very positive impact and here are some of the benefits she experienced:
- Although she thought it wouldn’t be possible, she learnt to shift her focus to different sensations in her body when she experiences a flare up which helps alleviating the pain.
- As she became more aware of her body, she managed to catch warning signs and used the exercises she learnt to avoid bigger flares.
- As she managed to avoid bigger flares and learnt to release tensions, she felt more confident and more in control of her body and health . Overall she was less afraid when having pain flares.
- Her sleep improved.
- She noticed she was managing her stress and emotions better with an immediate impact on her health.
- She felt more connected to herself and empowered to set boundaries with people. She learnt to put herself and her self-care first, whereas before she would try to push through because she didn’t want to let others down.
- Her quality of life improved improved because she became more in tune with her body needs and more at peace with herself. It prevented her from going into overwhelm.
- She found the energy to make positive moves and changes in areas of her life she was avoiding as it was hard or uncomfortable.
To summarise, Heather said the following:
“You were very kind, patient and open. You made me feel safe and not rushed throughout the sessions. I let go of my self conscious issues and just opened myself up to the experience because how you spoke to everyone and adapted and guided with no judgment.
I feel I’ve become a better version of myself. I’ve become more patient, not just with myself or my health, but with others in my life too. I feel empowered and that’s it’s OK to take ownership of my health. There are things in my control that I can do to feel better or have a positive effect. When I was hit through the intervention by a major personal upset, without realising, I put into practice the information and techniques you shared and taught me. It minimised the stress flare up and let me feel at peace despite the turmoil of the situation. I also learnt to allow myself to feel whatever I need without judging myself.
I have grown as a person and it was nice to discover a strength in myself.
Practicing Sophrology has allowed me to reduce pain medications and reduce side effects from others. It has also helped my brain fog moments and I feel much more switched on and aware.”
Would you like to know more?
The pain management intervention was part of a research study led by Charlotte Chatfield and Professor Caroline Lafarge from the University of West London.
I’m delighted to have been able to help Heather with her chronic pain management. Of course, the results are her own. She practiced and integrated the tools. I was merely a guide.
I do love to teach people Sophrology and show them how easy and flexible exercises can be used in everyday life, no matter the circumstances, age or physical ability. As soon as participants start to tune in with themselves, a transformation starts.
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