What Is Imagery Therapy And When Is It Used For Pain?

Dr. Russell Portenoy answers the question: 'What Is Imagery Therapy For Pain?'

— -- Question: What Is Imagery Therapy And When Is It Used To Relieve Pain?

Answer: The so-called cognitive therapies are commonly used by pain specialists to help in the treatment of chronic pain.

And the cognitive therapies include a variety of approaches, all of which at some level reduce the stress response. That is the "fight or flight" response that people who are experiencing severe pain can develop, and which actually can make the pain much worse or function much worse than it would otherwise be.

One common cognitive therapy that many patients know about is called imagery. Imagery is a technique in which typically a health professional takes a patient and walks through the development of a calming kind of image. And the patient can learn to go back to that image whenever the pain becomes severe and thereby stop the stress response, become calmer and in the process often experience less pain.

This process of imagery is quite similar to other types of training that patients with chronic pain can have, including training in relaxation techniques or distraction. The main purpose is to go from a situation of high tension, high stress and often severe pain, to a situation of lower tension, lower stress and often that is accompanied by pain relief.

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