I tried hypnosis for a few months to help with my terrible neck, shoulder, and back pain. Didn’t seem to do the trick. Someone else suggested mindfulness meditation. What the heck is that?

Chronic pain is managed in many different ways by different patients under the care of a trained health care professionals. One of those approaches is called psychosocial treatment. Psychosocial treatment recognizes there are psychological, emotional, spiritual, and social factors that affect pain perception.

Techniques such as hypnosis, relaxation, meditation, and behavioral therapy are just a few examples of psychosocial interventions for chronic pain. Hypnosis works on the basis of the power of suggestion. Suggestions are made to change your inner thoughts, emotions, the way you experience life, and your behaviors.

If hypnosis isn’t successful, some people try relaxation therapy. Relaxation techniques usually involve contracting and relaxing muscles, biofeedback, or listening to instructions (suggestions) to train the body to relax. Research has shown that this approach works by changing patients’ beliefs about what they can do for themselves. Reducing the stress response and experience of pain results in less perception of pain.

Mindfulness meditation helps people increase their awareness of the moment. The goal is to be “in the moment” — not living in the past with regrets or worrying about the future. Accepting each moment without judgment bring peace of mind. Meditation in every form slows down brain activity that puts you in a more relaxed mood.

Relaxation training, hypnosis, and mindfulness meditation all share one thing in common: focused awareness. Accepting what is and letting go of the need to control all else (most of which isn’t under our personal power and control anyway) is the key to changing the pain experience with meditation.

Since different people respond to pain management techniques with a wide range of results, it’s always a good idea to try something new. If one technique or approach doesn’t give you the pain relief, increase in function, or decrease in disability, then definitely give something else a try.