Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Self Help Strategies for Pain Relief

It’s a sad thing when a person is in pain and there is no one around to help them deal with it.  I know a number of doctors and therapists but they can’t always be there like a phone app.  If you are one of those people – I would like to show you some things that have been helpful for me and those I have treated.

The first thing to do is to have some basic knowledge about what pain is.  Just that knowledge can help to make it less frightening and calm the nervous system down a notch or 2 (sometimes just the knowledge does the trick).  Moment by moment our brain is active.  The nervous system has danger receptors in the body that are constantly active.  Even during sleep our brain is processing that incoming information.  Now comes the point – it’s not pain until the brain says it is!

I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating.  The brain takes in the input from our nervous system – and this includes the brain.  It is part of the nervous system.  It houses our deepest emotions, our thoughts, and it processes the input from the periphery and analyzes it in terms of what it already thinks it knows and what it expects.

If I step on a nail or fall off of a roof there are chances that I might really have an injury.  We know that these injuries heal with scar tissue over a period of a couple months or so.  If pain from an injury goes longer than that we can usually safely assume that we now have sensitized nerves as opposed to an injury.  This is good news – because we can do something about sensitized nerves!

That’s right – here are a few things you can do right now to calm down irritated nerves

·       Breathing
·       Slapping
·       Fidgeting/Squirming
·       Roll Down

That’s 4 – count em 4 things you can do right now!


I always enjoy watching a show where someone is having something horrible happening and another character reminds them to breath.  Most of our moms probably do that.  You have probably told others to breath.

It’s time to take that advice.  Slowing our breathing down has been shown to calm us down.  It activates the Rest and Digest part of our nervous system.  That calms down the Freeze, Fight, or Flight part of our nervous system.

I don’t recall where I got this format from but for years I have used a simple formula that others have tried with success.  Here it is:

Breath in for a count of 4
Hold the Breath for a count of 1
Exhale for a count of 6-10
Perform for 3 minutes

This has been effective for many.  I hope it is for you as well.


I bet you are really wondering about this one!  The Breath work we just looked at was to calm down the nervous system.  The brain tends to either become hyper irritable or to become accustomed to ramped up neurological input.  This ramping up is called accommodation.  The brain just stops paying attention.  In the body this often means that the soft tissues tighten up and get less blood flow.  Blood flow is how oxygen is applied to the skin, nerves, and muscles in the periphery.  In the absence of oxygen we often have pain.

Slapping all over our body brings attention to these areas.  It also increases blood flow for a period of time.  This gives us the ability to move.  In this proprioceptive slapping video you can see how it is done.  I recommend that you twist from side to side before and after to see how we can even increase our flexibility by slapping.

I love this because, just like breath work, it requires no extra equipment.  It can be done almost anywhere.  You can even watch some martial artists and Olympic athletes doing this.  If you insist on spending money you can practice skin brushing.  It will do the same thing! Focusing on what you feel and slowing down as you towel off after a bath our shower is very similar.


This one is just plain fun.  If you are like me, this got you into trouble in school.  I always tell teachers about this technique.  It’s actually not a real technique.  It’s just a part of being human.

When a part of our body is not getting enough oxygen because of a lack of blood flow we instinctively move to allow blood to flow back into the area.  This stops the discomfort.  Until we need to move again.

The problem arises when we inhibit this instinctive movement.  Often we stop this type of movement when we are concerned that others might be watching.  We might be criticized.  Worse yet, people might think badly of us.  We sit still and allow the discomfort to progress toward pain.  We really need to get over this.  Maybe I need to create the next best-selling video called “Fidgeting for Fun and Pain Relief " - Oh wait  I did make this video here called "Fidget, Wiggle, and Squirm for Pain Relief"!”

Pelvic Tilt

One of the most effective ways of calming down the nervous system is to utilize gentle movement of the spine.  I often teach the movement in this Pelvic Tilt Instruction Video to people as I work on them.  People regularly let me know how much this particular movement helps them. 

I began doing this type of movement in 1990.  I’ve probably taught it to hundreds.  The video makes it seem easy but some times it needs to be done in steps.  Many people need to just start with the breath work in this position.  Then they add the chin tuck.  The movements often need to stay small in order to be useful.  If you the entire movement too fast can be irritating - so go slow. Slow is fast.  Do it right.  Pay back is sweet.

I hope that these 4 self help techniques will be of use.  They may help you get by until you can get in for an appointment and they will certainly help you to stay better longer.


  1. Great advice, Richard. I am integrating the neural dural techniques you taught at your Quakertown workshop with great effect. Thanks for your insight.

  2. I'm glad you are getting good results! Who are you?