How To Practice Mindfulness for your CRPS/RSD
What is mindfulness for CRPS/RSD? (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome / Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) How is it going to help me with my chronic pain condition? Not only with this blog help to answer those questions but it will hopefully teach you how to practice mindfulness for your CRPS/RSD, so you can try to practice mindfulness meditation on a regular basis as an alternative, self-care pain management tool.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is considered to be a simple form of meditation. The dictionary definition of Mindfulness is:
- The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique
However it is the 2nd part of the definition that really is involved in Mindfulness the alternative therapy. As an example of what this actually all means for persistent pain sufferers:
- Think of what is happening to you right at this very moment, e.g. you may have a pain flare up you are in right at this moment of reading this post or you have recently been diagnosed with a rare chronic pain condition like CRPS/RSD.
- Now using those 2 examples in part 1, what are your normal thoughts or what would be your normal thoughts? Perhaps you could be really angry and upset that this has happened to you, you could possibly blame someone else for your diagnosis or your pain flare up. These sorts of thoughts are seen as the negative ones. Instead, the practice of Mindfulness for your CRPS/RSD wants you to realise what you are thinking, calmly accept how you feel and accept your pain. So if you are in a pain flare up then you try and accept the amount of pain you are feeling without anger.
The most simplest way of explaining what mindfulness is, is that you are here in the now and you are aware of yourself and what is going on around you. You need to think and be ‘mindful’ of you and your surroundings. Mindfulness means waking up to the smells, sights, sounds and event tastes of the now ie. the present moment.
It is thought that pain comes in 2 different parts:
- The first part is the actual pain that comes from your injury, condition, illness or in CRPS patients – the nervous system
- The second part is your own mind’s response from your illness or burning, stabbing pain from CRPS e.g. I hope it doesn’t get worse! When will it stop? I need a break from all this pain! What am I going to do if my pain relief doesn’t work?
What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness for CRPS/RSD?
- You can see your situations a lot clearer
- Realise, slow yourself down or even stop recurring thoughts and actions
- React more successfully to problematic circumstances
A,B and C’s of Mindfulness
According to Juliet Adams, the Founder of Mindfulnet.org & Director, A Head for Work there is the ABC of Mindfulness which are:
A – is for Awareness – Becoming more AWARE of what you are thinking and doing – what’s going on in your mind and body.
B – is for “just Being” with your experience – Avoiding the tendency to respond on auto-pilot and feed problems by creating your own story.
C – is for Seeing things and responding more wisely – By creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to, we can make wiser choices
You will find 2 terms often associated with each other which are meditation and mindfulness and used together can be an effective way of coping and dealing with your persistent pain. Having CRPS/RSD apart from being the most excruciating chronic pain condition, can make you feel totally isolated and alone.
How Can Mindfulness Work for Patients with CRPS formerly RSD?
As for how Mindfulness can work for patients living with CRPS, it can eventually help you cope easier with your persistent pain and feel less stress and distress. Do you often think about how your CRPS began ie. the inciting or original event that caused your Complex Regional Pain Syndrome? These thoughts often intrusive can not only influence your pain but it can also impact on your quality of life. By understanding all the factors that relate to managing your CRPS can eventually help you. Lohnberg, J.A. & Altmaier, E.M. (2014)
What are the Advantages of Practicing Mindfulness for your CRPS?
A study was done with 30 CRPS sufferers using Acceptance based coping methods (Cho, S. et al. 2013) and was found to show lower pain during the same day, increased activity the following day and other findings which you can Read Here.
Rosenzweig, S. et al. (2010) concluded that mindfulness based stress reduction treatments did have a varied effect on persistent pain as well as a better quality of life and psychological well being.
By being more aware of yourself and of your surroundings in the present not only can help you understand yourself much better and also help you to enjoy the world around you.
Veehof, M.M. et al (2016) stated in their conclusions that:
“…. acceptance-and mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain are, on the whole, moderately effective on a number of beneficial outcomes, especially in the long term. “
When you are first practicing Mindfulness prior to doing any exercises you should try and make sure you and your surroundings are prepared. Once you are confident in your Mindfulness exercises then you could practice them at work, as a passenger in the car, bus or train. But at the beginning:
- Put on some loose, comfortable clothes
- Turn off your mobile and TV
- Make sure you either have calming music or a silent room whichever you prefer
- If you are going to lie on the floor put your head on a pillow or cushion
EXERCISE 1a – BREATHING
You can either follow the exercises in our Learn How To Use Breathing Exercises for your CRPS or Persistent Pain blog or follow this exercise here:
- Sit yourself in a comfortable position or lie down
- Breathe as you would do normally; calm, slow, not laboured
- Begin to pay total attention on your breathing – How are you breathing? Is it slowly, quickly, short etc?
- Look at your chest and think about how your breathing is making your chest rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out
- It is quite normal and natural for you to begin to lose your concentration on your breathing, so to bring your attention back to your breathing you slowly think back to how your chest is rising and falling, how many breaths are you taking in and breathing out
- If you can try and practice this exercise 3 times a day
The following is an easy exercise sourced from the Australian Pain Management Association, that can be done at any time of the day no matter where you are – ‘Australian Pain Management Association (2013) ‘Mindfulness Meditation‘ ‘Noticing 5 Things Exercise’ Retrieved from http://www.painmanagement.org.au/treatment/professionals/mindfulness-meditation
EXERCISE 1b – BREATHING SPACE (via Breathworks Mindfulness)
This ‘video’ gives you a good 3 minute breathing space to yourself and you can do this mindfulness exercise in any posture.
EXERCISE 2 – ‘Noticing 5 Things Exercise’
- Pause for a moment
- Notice five things you can see
- Notice five things you can hear.
- Notice five things you can feel in contact with your body (e.g. your feet in your shoes, the air on your face, your back against the chair and the fabric of your clothes touching your legs)
EXERCISE 3 – BODY SCAN
This is a classic Mindfulness exercise that many courses will teach you which will take around 20 minutes. In this exercise we have gone from the top of the head downwards to the toes however if you prefer you can go the other way; from the toes upwards to the top of the head. It all depends on what you feel comfortable with, which is similar to our How To Relax To Help You Cope with your CRPS or Persistent Pain blog.
- Complete your surroundings preparation first of all. Remember if you find your mind wandering just slowly bring yourself back to the area of your body that you were being mindful / aware of.
- Think about your body and notice the feelings that are there, can you feel your body in contact with the floor?
- Begin thinking of your various parts of your body, don’t think ‘Oh that hurts’ or ‘I have an itch there’ but bring your thoughts to each area of your body
- Now, beginning with the top of your head, can you detect any feeling at all? Is it relaxed? Painful?
- Then go downwards to include the whole of your head, if you are sitting down – do you feel it’s weight on your shoulders? Or if you are lying down – Do you feel the heaviness on the pillow?
- As you are being aware of your head, can you feel any ease, pain, ache or your pulse in your forehead? How about your eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth and chin? Do you have warm cheeks? Cold nose perhaps?
- When you get to your ears, can you hear any sounds?
- Gently move downwards towards your neck, do you have any tension? Are you aware of strong muscles?
- Again move slowly downwards to your shoulders. If you are sitting down, are you shoulders in contact with the chair? If you are lying down where is there contact between the floor and the shoulders? Do you have any aching muscles? Do you have stress in them?
- Now become aware of both your arms, then to your wrists, onto your hands, palms, fingers, then right to your finger tips. Do you have pain anywhere? What does it feel like? Don’t dwell on how painful it is rather try and think of softness. If you feel your mind wandering away bring your focus back to your area. If you find this difficult then focus on your breathing, how are you breathing is in gentle and calm?
- After your arms and hands, bring your attention to your chest and ribs. Can you see how your chest rises and falls with every breath in and out?
- After your chest and ribs you then continue going downwards towards your toes making yourself aware of each body area and focusing on what is happening in that area. If there is pain in an area, try and not focus on HOW MUCH it hurts instead think of bringing softness to that area.
- When you get to your toes, take a couple of breaths and bring your attention then to your whole body, scan your body to see if there’s an area that you don’t feel calm in and then focus on that area and see if you can reduce the tension or pain. Do you feel more happier? More aware?
Hopefully you will have learnt something new and interesting for pain management of CRPS. Learning how to practice mindfulness for your CRPS/RSD can be very helpful in self-management for your CRPS or persistent pain. However you need to remember that mindfulness doesn’t always work for everyone and it isn’t a cure. Instead practicing mindfulness meditation can assist you in your self-care routine to help you manage and cope with your CRPS, persistent pain or mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. What are your favourite mindfulness exercises? Don’t forget to share our How To Practice Mindfulness for your CRPS/RSD blog using the social sharing buttons below this blog!
Below you will find a few good websites and articles on Mindfulness for persistent pain and CRPS/RSD with some good podcasts, books and resources. The ones that we found interesting are:
- Bernhard, Toni D (2012) “5 Techniques to help with physical pain – Five alternatives to the misguided advice: “push through the pain,” Psychology Today. Published 19 October 2011.
- Breathworks Mindfulness (2014) ‘3 Minute Breathing Space,’ Breathworks Mindfulness website. Available from: <http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/3-min-breathing-space>
- Cho, S. et al. (2013) ‘Pain acceptance-based coping in complex regional pain syndrome Type I: daily relations with pain intensity, activity, and mood,’ Journal of Behavioural Medicine. 2013, October. Vol 36(5) pp 531-538. Available from: <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854886> doi: 10.1007/s10865-012-9448-7
- Lohnberg, Jessica A., and Elizabeth M. Altmaier (2014) “Thought intrusion among adults living with complex regional pain syndrome.” Rehabilitation psychology. 2014. 59(2), pp 171-175. Available from: <http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/24611917>
- Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World (2017) “What is Mindfulness?” Frantic World website. Available from: <http://franticworld.com/what-is-mindfulness/>
- Mindfulnet website (2016) “A,B,C/s of Mindfulness” Available from:
- NHS Choices (2016) “Mindfulness” NHS Choices website. Available from: <http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx>
- Rosenzweig, S. et al. (2010) ‘Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice,’ Journal of Psychosom Res. 2010, January. Vol 68(1) pp 29-36. Available from: <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20004298> doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.03.010.
Veehof, MM. et al (2016) “Acceptance- and mindfulness-based interventions for the treatment of chronic pain: a meta-analytic review” Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. 2016. Vol 45, issue 1. Available from: <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16506073.2015.1098724?scroll=top&needAccess=true>
- YouTube Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn was the original developer of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre
- YouTube Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn in this video it is about Mindfulness for Pain Relief from Session 1
- YouTube 5 Minute Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Management by Goalistics Dated 23 May 2012
- YouTube Body Scan – Guided Mindfulness Meditation by UnLearn Yourself Dated 26 March 2012