Distraction and Chronic Pain

I read somewhere that “Distraction is the most powerful analgesic of all.” I cannot find who said it, but I want to give thanks to this idea.

The Action of Distraction

When I am really focused on something and especially if I am laughing, my pain is not as strong. Sometimes, I don’t notice it at all. “…distractions are effective mechanisms for reducing pain,” said Jason Buhle, who conducted research as part of his doctoral dissertation at Columbia University.

Have you noticed that when you are completely engaged in a project, a tv show, a movie (especially of high intensity or funny), conversation with a friend, exercise, sex, dancing, or reading that you don’t feel your pain so intensely? It seems like it has almost moved to the background.

Observe these moments. This is your chance to change and feel better. When you notice them, you can see that your aches are not happening ALL THE TIME.

MH Johnson from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland said, “Engaging in thoughts or activities that distract attention from pain is one of the most commonly used and highly endorsed strategies for controlling pain.” Read the full article. How does distraction work in the management of pain?

I keep a list of things to do when I am having a rough time. I love cooking so I make our meals and flow into the chop, chop, chop and the stir, stir, stir. My thoughts go into the food just like the herbs and spices. Time passes where I am solely focused on creation.

Make a distraction list

Make a list before you need it and keep it posted. Here is one of mine:

  • Write down three things I am grateful for.
  • Open the windows and listen to the birds.
  • Pet Leeloo and enjoy her purr.
  • Make an excellent salad full of fresh veggies
  • Watch a funny cartoon.
  • Work on my book and get in the writing zone.
  • Meditate.
  • Use my virtual reality headset.
  • Learn a new chord on my ukulele.
  • Call a friend and ask how they are doing.
  • Do a crossword puzzle.
  • Listen to soothing music.

Erica Jacques, Occupational Therapist said, “Will distraction techniques take your pain away completely? Probably not. But they will help you devote some attention to other things, and perhaps make your pain easier to manage.” Click here for the full article.

Give these ideas a try and come up with your own. Notice how the action of distraction works for you.


Gail Sinclair, MHt, CNC is a hypnotherapist who helps those living with chronic pain go from discomfort to thriving by using hypnosis, pain management tools and resources.

She is a Master Hypnotherapist, Nutritional Consultant, and a Reiki Master Teacher. She has over 20 years in healing work and is an international award-winning speaker.

Gail lives in Portland, OR with her delightful husband, son, and cat. She can be found cooking, knitting, writing, and figuring out new ways to thrive with Trigeminal, and Occipital Neuralgia.

You can reach her gailthriveswithchronicpain@gmail.com.

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