Today I am going to share a specific visualization with you that can be used to help manage chronic pain. To understand the neuroscience behind how visualizations can decrease chronic pain, you can check out my last two posts that go into great detail about this. Please get caught up, because it is important to understand the WHY to be motivated to actually practice these strategies.
In a nutshell, visualization is a form of mental energy that can be harnessed to change the brain’s structure, intercepting the chronic pain pathways that have been developed and creating new healthy pathways.
You can read about this in detail in these two posts:
The following specific visualization is taken from Dr. Moskowitz’s book Neuroplastic Transformation. You can also find a great deal of information on neuroplastic transformation at his website: neuroplastix.com.
To complete this visualization, you need two pictures: an image of the brain experiencing acute pain and an image of the brain experiencing chronic pain.
These images are fMRI pictures of the brain. The f stands for “functional,” which means the MRI is measuring and creating a picture of actual brain activity.
The picture below of acute pain is lighted up in the areas of the brain that process pain. This is a normal state, and the brain has the capabilities to manage and down regulate the acute pain so that you eventually are not experiencing the symptom of pain any longer.
The picture of a brain experiencing persistent pain looks a bit different. You can see in the fMRI image below that the areas of pain have expanded. The pain map has been flooded and the brain no longer has the capability of managing and down regulating the pain. It has become too much.
Once you have a copy of the two pictures, you can follow these directions found in Neuroplastic Transformation to complete the visualization:
“Look at each picture carefully. Notice that the difference between acute and chronic pain is that of the size of the pain map. The brain in acute pain down-regulates the symptom of pain, but in persistent pain, it cannot do so, because the map has expanded and pain has become a disease instead of a symptom. Recognize that if your pain returns to this acute symptom, your brain will mange it for you. Set clear goals and beliefs that your pain can be returned to its acute state. Do not let your pain convince you otherwise” (Moskowitz & Golden, 2013, p. 15).
“Flip back and forth between [the graphic of acute pain and the graphic of persistent pain]. Repeat to yourself that if my brain looks like the pictures without pain, I can have no pain. Do this several times throughout the day. Memorize these two pictures. Picture graphic 9 and put “the lights” out. Use your imagination and creativity to come up with the best way to do this. As you do so, repeat that there can be no pain if those areas are shut off. Once you can picture this in your imagination, you no longer have to use the graphics, but they are available for your reference” (Moskowitz & Golden, 2013, p. 15).
At another place in his book, Neuroplastic Transformation, Dr. Moskowitz states that this visualization, along with other strategies he suggests, should be completed every time the pain comes into conscious awareness. That is a huge undertaking. It requires a great deal of persistence, motivation, and tenacity to keep going when no progress can be seen at the beginning. As I state in an earlier post, he suggests that it takes 6 weeks of constant practice for results to be seen.
In light of this, I will be starting a Six Week Accountability Group for Individuals with Chronic Pain to Practice Visualization-Based Pain Management Techniques. I don’t feel capable of completing this for six weeks straight without some accountability. So maybe we can help each other out. If you are interested, shoot me a message, send me an email, comment on this post, or fill out the form below. Also let me know if you have any questions about it!
I will start adding people to the group right away and we will officially start the six weeks of daily visualization on March 12th. There will be more instructions and introductions in the group once we get started.
**Update: please note that this group is no longer running.
Moskowitz, M. H. & Golden, M. D. (2013) Neuroplastic Transformation: Transforming the Brain in Pain. Neuroplastic Partners, LLC.
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