Burning Nights CRPS Support is a UK national charity dedicated to raising awareness of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Distraction Techniques for CRPS and Persistent Pain | Ways to help distract yourself from CRPS or persistent pain

How To Use Distraction Techniques To Help You Cope With Your CRPS or Persistent Pain


How To Use Distraction Techniques To Help You Cope With Your CRPS or Persistent Pain

What Are Distraction Techniques?

Persistent pain affects approximately 10 million people in the UK every day. On average people, mainly females in the UK take 55 days per year off work sick all due to chronic pain. So, what can we do to help those of us in chronic pain, that does not involve medication? Read on to find out how to use distraction techniques to help you cope with your complex regional pain syndrome or persistent pain.


Distraction Techniques for CRPS and Persistent Pain | Ways to help distract yourself from CRPS or persistent pain
Distraction Techniques for CRPS and Persistent Pain | Ways to help distract yourself from CRPS or persistent pain

The aim of distraction techniques or distraction methods is to try and take your attention away from your pain to something entirely different and then absorb yourself in that activity. Do you listen to the radio? Do you take your dog for a walk? Or maybe you read, watch television, bake, cook…?

All those things have probably taken your full attention away from your pain without you even realising it! If and when you have a pain flare up, what do you do? Do you reach for the tablets, sit a dark room and cry? If this sounds like you during a pain flare up then give distraction a go to try and reduce that flare up. 

Distraction is a temporary way of turning mind and thoughts to something other than just your pain. Distraction techniques are a self-managing tool to help you calm and relax your mind.

So while you wait for the medication to work try playing games, board games, using a computer, reading, painting, drawing, craft-work, photography or even knitting which is quite popular with younger people now. The idea is that attention engaged in a non-pain demand cannot be applied to pain, thereby producing analgesia.

The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh website say that:

“…. distraction facilitates coping, helps manage pain, decreases the use of pharmacological methods…” 

Virtual Reality as a Distraction Technique

There is now use of virtual reality as a tool for distraction of your pain. A game called ‘SnowWorld’ has been created by Professor Hunter Hoffman and Professor David Patterson from the University of Washington Harbor View Burns Centre in Seattle. In an article for the BBC Professor Hoffman said:

“The aim of the game is “to make a very attention grabbing experience for the patient and basically to give them a place to escape from their pain” says Professor Hoffman.”  

In a research article from Weiderhold, B.K. at al. (2014) they discussed the use of Virtual Reality as a distraction technique for chronic pain and their idea for using Virtual Reality (VR) was:

“One way to help is by using virtual reality (VR) to draw attention away from the patients’ mental processing, thereby decreasing the amount of pain consciously experienced by the patient.”  


In the Weiderhold, B.K. et al. (2014) study they found that virtual reality:

“… may change how the brain physically registers pain, not just the perception of pain stimuli.”  

In the same study by Weiderhold, B.K. et al. they found that the results of their research was that:

“Overall, the results of this study show VR is effective at reducing pain.

Some of the patients within the trial of Weiderhold, B.K. et al. said:

“Several patients reported encouraging feedback as well, such as ‘‘this is the first pain relief I have had in 3 years,’’ ‘‘I was so busy playing I forgot about my pain…”  


Photography As A Distraction Technique

A fellow CRPS sufferer Jo, uses photography as her way of distracting her thoughts and mind away from her chronic pain. Jo has had Complex Regional Pain Syndrome for approximately 13 years, with the 1st 3 years being undiagnosed.


At the beginning like most, she found it extremely difficult for her to deal with and adjust to the condition. Now 13 years down the line she says she copes fairly well with her “daily cocktail of drugs” to try and keep her pain levels under some sort of control.

Jo is unable to stand for too long or walk very far without stopping, she is never pain free but that has never impacted on her photography.


Photography can be something that you can do sitting down or standing up which makes it a great distraction therapy! Jo says it gives her something else to focus on and think about, it’s not just a case of clicking away for her, she likes to try and capture an image that she can look back on and say “that’s a great shot!” She’s particularly interested in what is called macro photography or close up to a lay person.

Something truly great has come out of her chronic pain in a way. The distraction of photography for Jo is most welcome and she can easily spend a few hours ‘clicking away‘ when she’s out and about. Jo is proud of her photography and she likes to think that other people enjoy looking at the end results.

Her passion for photography is totally obvious when you see her pictures, they are truly amazing!

If you would like to see more of her brilliant photos please go to Jo Waterland’s Flickr page 

Other Examples of Distraction Techniques

You don’t have to go out and spend lots of money on expensive equipment on your ‘distraction,’ you can just as easily download a free book on Kindle or listen to some music on the radio or just watch the television. You could perhaps go to the cinema to watch a film. 

If you are listening to some music to keep your mind from wandering you could click your fingers, sing along with the it or just gently tap the beat with your hand or foot. Loud or high pitched music can also affect your pain levels, so be careful not to make your pain worse by putting the music really loudly, lower the volume to a level that doesn’t cause your pain to spike.


Another distraction is to do some crafts; knitting, art, drawing, model making, painting, needlework, card making, those sorts of things. Go to your local craft shop when you don’t have a flare up or when your pain isn’t too bad and have a look around for something you may be interested in, so when you do have a pain flare up you have something to do to try and distract your mind from the pain.

Adult Colouring As A Distraction Technique

Distraction Techniques - Adult art colouring for pain management and stress.
Distraction Techniques – Adult art colouring for pain management and stress

Adult colouring is very popular and easy way to help alleviate stress and anxiety. It is the repetitive motions & sense of creativity & accomplishment that can help people relax.

Research shows that adult colouring can have a positive effect on a stressed or anxious person’s state of mind. (Davis, S. 2016)


There is a series in the UK called Adult Art that you can buy from your local newsagent or supermarket. However you can download some FREE designs on the internet such as on PINTEREST and websites such as:

There is a great Etsy shop for some lovely hand drawn adult colouring books and pages; Studio Magda Polakow. Check out her lovely adult colouring pages!

Why not visit the Burning Nights CRPS Support Pinterest board for Adult Colouring?


The ‘Coloring Pages Bliss’ website has some great FREE designs just for chronic pain management. The lady behind the website, Jennifer Stay, has created 5 simple steps to “Coloring Bliss For Pain Relief.” Those 5 simple steps are explained on her website but in quick terms they are:

  1.  Get Comfortable
  2. Create – Don’t Produce
  3. Immerse Yourself
  4. Let Time Pass
  5. Nurture Your Body & Soul


How To Create Your Colouring Masterpiece

Designs can be all most anything and the choice of colours are your own. There is no right or wrong way to colour your design.

Distraction Techniques Adult colouring design
Distraction Techniques Adult colouring design (c) Burning Nights CRPS Support
  • You begin with a black and white design such as:
  • Choose your range of colours, whether it is just 1 or more
  • Choose your type of how you’re going to colour – crayon, colour pencil, felt tip ….
  • Start colouring your design!

There are adult art colouring books that also can be purchased via Amazon, for example:


There are even specific adult art colouring books for the men out there, for example:


Other Examples of Distraction Techniques

As you can imagine there are a large number of distraction techniques that people can use to help them cope with their chronic pain or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Obviously the use of distraction techniques will depend on where you are when you need to use them. If you are out of the house you may want to play music from your phone or listen to an audio book, if you’re at home then you will have an array of distraction techniques that you can use. Other examples of distraction techniques include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Listening to music
  • Organisation
  • Reading
  • Audio Books
  • Cooking
  • Drawing or Doodling
  • Crafts
  • Stress balls
  • Journaling or bullet journaling or writing of some sort
  • Puzzles
  • Counting or doing maths problems
  • Massage
  • Watching TV or films
  • Use mindfulness meditation techniques

Conclusion – Distraction Techniques for CRPS

What is Your distraction technique to help you cope with your complex regional pain syndrome? Distraction Techniques to help you cope with your CRPS via Burning Nights CRPS Support

Sometimes people believe that distraction techniques don’t work for them because their chronic pain or CRPS is too intense and that it doesn’t give any pain relief.

Distraction techniques are not meant to replace any medication or anything your specialists have given you, it is simply a natural and alternative way to to try and ‘trick’ your brain into thinking other thoughts and concentrate on something other than your chronic pain or your flare up.

Please feel free to post, comment or share on social media using the Share buttons below our how to use distraction techniques to help you cope with your CRPS or persistent pain blog. Have you checked out our other alternative therapies for CRPS and persistent pain blogsWhat are your distraction techniques that help you cope with your CRPS or persistent pain?


  • McCaul, K.D., Malott, J.M., (1984) ‘Distraction and coping with pain,’ Psychological Bulletin. May 1984. Vol 95(3) pp 516-533. Available from: <http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bul/95/3/516/> doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.95.3.516
  • Pain Management (2017) ‘Distraction Techniques’ Available from: <https://www.aci.health.nsw.gov.au/chronic-pain/painbytes/pain-and-mind-body-connection/how-can-distraction-be-used-to-manage-pain>
  • Stay, Jennifer (2015) ‘5 Steps To Coloring For Pain Relief,’ Coloring Pages Bliss website. 7 September 2015. Available from: <http://www.coloringpagesbliss.com/5-steps-to-coloring-for-pain-relief/>
  • Weiderhold, B.K. et al. (2014) ‘Virtual Reality as a Distraction Technique in chronic pain patients, Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking. June 3, 2014. Vol 17 Number 6. Available from: <http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/cyber.2014.0207 > doi: 10.1089/cyber.2014.0207

*Please speak to your doctor or medical professional before trying anything new or different to your usual pain management regime. We do not endorse any of the books, websites or links used in this website. We are not trained doctors and cannot diagnose, give formal medical advice or about treatments. Please speak to your doctor before trying anything new or different*


Last Updated: 31/01/2020

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About the Author
As the Founder of Burning Nights CRPS Support, I want to help all those affected by this devastating condition which includes those living with CRPS, their relatives, partners, carers and friends. I'm also barrister, advocate & have lived with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) since 2003. I am also a bilateral (double) above knee amputee due to aggressive symptoms of CRPS. Please help spread awareness of this debilitating and life-changing condition - CRPS. We need your support!
  1. Christine Fleming

    Distraction is for me a great help in dealing with chronic pain. Being able to remove myself from, at times the circle of pain, if only for a short space of time, gives my life that is being disrupted by pain and distress some meaning. Over time I have used a variety of distraction techniques everything from counselling, writing poetry, reading, trying to improve my computer technique. It can help.

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