Living with diabetic neuropathy can be painful. While changing your lifestyle and taking the right neuropathy medications can lessen the pain you feel, it's likely you still have to live with discomfort from your neuropathy at least some of the time. When you aren't feeling very well and you can't or just would rather not take a painkiller, it's time to explore some alternatives. Some people may find a hot bath soothing, while others could benefit from a day of rest. One technique you can use at any place and time is mindfulness, which research has shown to be very effective in managing chronic pain.
What do you think when you're in pain? If you're like most people, what you want is to get rid of it or stop experiencing it. This is a natural reaction. However, mindfulness asks us to turn our attention to the pain without judging it as bad or feeling upset that we have it. Instead, we simply observe what is happening in our bodies and our minds while we are in pain.
The theory behind the practice of mindfulness for pain relief is that a lot of our judgments and emotions about pain actually make us feel worse. When we think about how much we hate being in pain and how much we wish we weren't, we focus a lot of energy on the pain, which can intensify it. We also tend to run through all of the ways we could treat our pain, which can make us feel trapped when we don't have the means to get better immediately.
Instead of ruminating, mindfulness teaches us to let go of expectations and judgments and allow ourselves to experience the present moment.
A body scan for mindful pain management
If you're interested in trying mindfulness for pain management, check out this exercise:
Get to a quiet place and in a comfortable position. If you think there's any chance you might doze off, sit instead of lying down.
Close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. You don't need to do anything differently with your breathing, but pay attention to it.
When your mind wanders, as it will, gently redirect your attention to the breath.
Scan your body - that is, direct your full awareness to every part of your body, one at a time. You can start with your toes and end at your head. As you do this, just observe. What does your body feel like? What about the parts that aren't in any pain? Does your pain differ in different parts of your body?
When you are ready, bring your attention back to your breath. Slowly open your eyes.
If you find this quick exercise helpful, there are many videos available online that can give you more ways to use mindfulness for your neuropathy pain. There are also a variety of books on mindfulness you can read to learn more and to start deepening your mindfulness practice.