How To: Trick Your Brain into Not Feeling Any Pain

Trick Your Brain into Not Feeling Any Pain

Pain is, for the most part, unavoidable when you stub your toe, break your arm, or cut your finger open. It's instantaneous and, in some cases, long-lasting, but it only feels as bad as you want it to. Yes, that's right—that pain is all in your head.

Now I'm not saying that pain is an imaginary symptom of an injury—pain is definitely real. It's basic physiology. But pain is produced by the brain, and there are a few ways you can trick your brain into making those unpleasant physical feelings go away—without using pain medication.

How Your Brain Deals with Pain

As Johns Hopkins University neuroscience professor David Linden shares with NPR, the pain you feel when hurt is controlled and directed by your brain's circuitry. As the brain filters all of the information coming from your sensory nerves, it focuses on certain bits and pieces in particular.

Linden explains, "The brain can say, 'Hey that's interesting. Turn up the volume on this pain information that's coming in.' Or it can say, 'Oh no — let's turn down the volume on that and pay less attention to it.'"

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Your brain processes pain both physically, where it notes the location and intensity, and emotionally, where it dictates your reaction. For example, when you feel a sharp, stabbing pain shoot down your leg, that's your brain's interpretation of physical intensity. When you find yourself shrieking out loud in response, that's your brain's emotional response.

So, what does this all have to do with pain management? If you know what, exactly, sets off your brain's emotional responses to injury, you can better control what you feel—or what you think you feel.

Overload Yourself with Positivity to Lessen the Hurt

It might sound ridiculous, particularly when you're suffering from pain that seems insurmountable, but positive thoughts and emotions can actually counteract those bad feelings.

When you're feeling nothing but negativity, like fear and insecurity, you create the perfect breeding ground for pain. The "weaker," or more negative, your mind is, the more you feel the full effects of whatever is ailing you. Conversely, when you feel safe, secure, and comfortable—yet encounter pain—you respond with less physical feeling.

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Surprisingly, just as pain can build over time and make you feel even weaker, positive thoughts grow and compound as well, according to recent research published in American Psychologist. The more you tweak your perspective and focus on the positive rather than giving in to your negative tendencies, the stronger your emotional resiliency becomes.

However, you need to overwhelm yourself with positivity to reap its pain-relieving benefits, according to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading scholar in the area of positive psychology and author of Positivity. Because your negative bias is both strong and inherent, your brain requires three positive experiences to help you begin thinking in a kinder way. Put this into practice to prepare for your next painful encounter by thinking about every situation from a positive point of view.

Distract Your Brain from Feeling the Pain

Your brain filters determine how, and to what extent, you feel pain. So in order to control what you feel, you need to find a way to manage what it is your brain's sensors pick up.

That's what researchers at Brown University studied. When examining the frequency of brain waves in response to physical sensations, the team found that attempts to ignore feelings and senses cause low-frequency rhythms—which do the blocking—to increase, not only in the area of the brain that deals with a certain body part in question, but in the area of the brain that ignores distractions.

When asked to focus on a specific hand or foot, the study's participants responded to light taps from the researchers on different body parts—but not physically. Instead, their brains began increasing low-frequency rhythms as they struggled to fight the response of the body part being touched. While the brain worked to ignore the distracting touch on one body part, it began working to filter out that physical, sensory information.

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This means, according to the researchers, that you can teach your brains to filter out pain, but perhaps only pain that is chronic. The repeated messages from a spot on your body filled with pain dull over time as the brain become used to receiving them, lessening the emotional and physical sensation.

If you want to train your brain to forget about pain, you don't exactly need to develop a chronic condition. Instead, you simply need to become familiar with the sensations so your brain recognizes them. Much like the familiar habit of snapping rubber bands or pinching wrists to break habits, the more of one kind of pain you encounter, the less it will hurt.

Practice Mindful Meditation

Meditation is the art of sitting still and letting the mind run wild. With just a few minutes of quiet, unmoving silence, you can do more than relax and unwind; you can retrain your brain to feel less pain, according to a 2011 study on "mindful" meditation.

Researchers examined participants who practiced mindful mediation, for a period of meditation during which they performed body and breath work. When participants focused on their thoughts and tiny, imperceptible feelings during the meditation, they were able to control their bodies' responses to external stimuli. So, when struck with sudden pain, individuals were able to keep their brains calm and non-responsive.

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Relieving pain may not be an instantaneous act, but with time and practice you can adapt your brain to handle every bump, cut, and injury with ease. Focus in on your body, and it can become numb in the most necessary situations.

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No bad idea
Some people for example the Aborigines send messages only with their brain

I have been dealing with chronic pain for nearly 5 years now. I am only 40 years old. We have tried everything we are aware of to try and reduce my allodynia in the back of my thigh and my foot including the meditation you suggest. Even after a year+ of practice and I only get relief during the mediation itself and the results only last usually until I start moving and touch the affected areas again. Some pains are a little more stubborn than oother, but what I would give to just be numb in the situations of simply sitting, standing or walking...

I feel you. As a chronic pain sufferer for almost 20 years, even as I always hear that it's amazing what I do and that I'm one of the most positive, optitimistic people others know, I'm at the point that articles like this just irritate me. These methods work beautifully for the slightly extended pain from cuts, surgeries and broken bones I've had, but for the chronic, flu-like achy pain I feel from the time I wake up until the moment I fall asleep, they're useless. Going on 40 years of fibromyalgia research and the best you can give us is "think positively and meditate?" Please.

Obviously, whomever wrote this stupid article does not suffer from chronic pain. I suffer from chronic pain too, and, if being ignored or not being taken seriously by doctors were not enough,one has to run into this kind of shallow, patronising articles. They truly are an insult to people like us. Despicable.

I feel your pain. I give mine up to Christ for the conversion of sinners and my pain leaves me. I have migraines, damaged rotator cuffs, my right shoulder bone is 2cm out of the socket and unremarkable, sudden heart death, primary progressive MS, Sarcoidosis blind in one eye and double vision in the other, a cracked hip, and I am confined to bed

Please take this advice,

Go to isha yoga program . Inner engeneering it is designed by sadghuru. Good luck

I know what you mean, my roommate has Fibromyalgia, tsin bone pain, headaches, Hyperacusis tinnis, and urge incontinence of plain and pelvic pain.

Hi. Just read this article which sounded great but then read your reply. It was written some time ago but I'd love to know if you've found any relief. My condition sounds so much like yours. Thanks.

Everything I've read seems to be on point, however i can only tap into the pain reduction described when I'm in intensive amounts of pain. I'm currently dealing with jaw pain and golfers elbow and my way of dealing with it is to imagine that the jaw pain is a dangerous animal and that it must be confined with barriers. Once i have it trapped i concentrate on my elbow pain and happy thoughts

i feel a lot of pain. i'm already doing the deep breathing, i'm doing my best to be positive but my pain is overwhelming. many nights when i finally go to sleep i just hope and pray i won't wake up. my dose of pain rx was cut in half 2 years ago. i have to travel almost 500 miles every 2 months to see a pain specialist. i've got severe motion sickness and anxiety. by the time i finally get back home i can barely walk into my house and get into bed. i'll be in bed for the next 2-3 days. my body hurts so bad i can barely walk to and from the bathroom. i seldom leave my home except to doctors visits., or for lab work. i've never abused drugs in my entire 55 years on this planet but i've been treated like a drug addict. when i woke up after my acdf surgery i was in agony. i couldn't stop crying. my nurse said "shut up! stop all this crying! you are a grown woman!" they kept me in recovery for 5 hours. my husband tried to see me. he knew something was wrong. they wouldn't allow him back to see me. finally, the nurse spoke to my surgeon and i heard him say "this is what happens with these pill mill doctors. she's going to require more pain medication." finally, after suffering unbearable pain for hours and being humiliated i got a shot and some relief. the thing is, that doctor knew how much pain meds i normally take before surgery and i'm a very large woman. he did nothing to compensate, instead he let me suffer and then road an arbitrary high horse using the term "pill mill doctor." i've grown to hate this world and everyday that hatred is reinforced by stupid cruel people who don't really know anything about long chronic severe pain and it's effect on the lives of people who struggle to survive. i worry about my current pain management doctor retiring or dying or moving further away. the day that happens i will end my life.

Sorry you have been suffering so much. Your pain sounds awful. No one should judge you for trying to find relief. I also have a lot of nerve pain, from a car accident 4 years ago that left me with paralysis in most of my body (quadriplegia). I've tried a few different meds but unfortunately, they haven't helped much, and the side effects cause new problems. So, for about 2 years, I've been looking for new ways to treat the pain without meds. Yoga and meditation help when I'm doing them, but don't give lasting relief. I'm determined to keep trying though. If you get relief from your meds, that's a good thing! And you should never be shamed for requesting them. I hope you can hold onto hope and it would be nice if you get some relief even if sometimes you don't have meds for awhile. I'm hoping and praying for you!

I hear ya Millie Everhart , chronic pain for me going on 43 yrs now & yea docs give the pain meds & then act like we are fienes out for a "fix" I finally weaned off pain medication after 27 yrs because I've come to a plateau of relief for about 5 yrs now & honestly my pain is not worse & I'm glad to be off the med because like i said I my pain level plataueed and taking a stronger med or higher dose seems like a viscous cycle. I feel for you because chronic pain SUCKS !!!! Not to mention all the other medical issues we have on top of the pain. Altho your reply was years ago, I do hope you're well and have made some sort of progress in getting relief.

Wow! This actually worked! Well, pretty sure it won't really work on much injuries, but small stuff like getting a blessing hole in your foot, happy thoughts really work, just close your eyes and think of someone you kissing you or your best dreams coming true! I can't feel a thing anymore... Well, after a little bit of stopping to think about happy stuff, it comes back, then yah gotta do it again! :(

While I find positive thinking and practices like meditation helpful overall; at those times of intense pain, the last thing you think of is anything positive. Clearly whoever wrote this article is well meaning, but doesn't seem to understand what intense, chronic pain is like day in and day out, Year after year. I've been in chronic pain for the last 14 years, since being crushed by and 18 wheeler against a concrete pillar (I was not in a vehicle; just my body between the truck and pillar). After trying all sorts of prescription medications, homeopathic treatments and just about everything in between; I find myself wishing more and more not to wake up when I go to sleep. Worse than having to take chemicals to get a little relief, is the judgement by pharmacists, doctors and other 'professionals' who clearly don't fully understand, or want to understand what an individual patient endures. More often than not, when I pick up my prescription of pain meds from the pharmacy, I find myself having the recurring thought of taking everything in those boxes at once, falling asleep and never having to feel anything ever again. It's the guilt of who I leave behind that keeps me from doing that. I sometimes feel at my wits end; especially when I wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night, screaming in pain. If only there was a way of completely eliminating all feeling, but still being able to function from day to day. I'd be a guinea pig for that procedure. Thanks for letting me bitch about this...

It gets harder to keep hope and perspective when the pain has been with you for so long. I've been feeling mine for almost 4 years; not even half as long as yours. I'm sorry you've been suffering for so long! But please don't ever give up hope. I think I'll eventually find a treatment that will give better relief, and it does come and go even now. I try to remember that I do have pain-free moments and believe they will keep coming. Best wishes for better days for you too.

Just to follow up on the article a little bit. A simple question. In example, if a person were to cut themself deeply, would it be possible for the person to override the pain totally?

While creating pain in a different area distracts you from the main source, I don't think harming yourself is the right way to go. Physical distractions can sometimes be dangerous, and I suggest you take a safer route, and focus on mental distracts for the time being.

I slightly agree. I've been suffering from problems in my stomach for over 10 years now, and the pain gets worse each day. Normally, I'd take medicine, but if i'm on the run and out of the house, mentally tricking myself by either distracting myself with a song (humming) or focusing on something else (like manually breathing or blinking) helps. Though it isn't actually solving anything, until you can get the proper attention your pain needs, learning to deal with it better helps.

I am a fashion designer who knows the art of singular focus and extreme form of apathy when it comes to me designing. It's becomes all consuming perticular type of in the moment feeling that is extremely distinguishable to me from any kind of feeling that i feel. So my mind knows, i know, that any other feeling whatsoever it may be, can't override this feeling when am designing. So in pain i just have to close my eyes and start drawing something, actually creating the design in my mind and my mind starts numbing the pain down. It's easy to say but i developed the focus over 7 to 8 years of intense focus on what i love to do. If u can learn to focus, you can overcome pain. Amen.

well it did work for me!! thats what I do on any headeache

I see the last post here was 6 months ago, but wonder if anyone is interested in chatting more about things that have worked for them to deal with chronic pain? I posted this in a reply to a post above, but I've had chronic pain for about 4 years, and have gotten some relief through yoga and meditation. My frustration is that the relief doesn't usually last, and I can't spend my entire life doing yoga and meditating! Meds for pain have caused me more trouble than good. I really want to train my mind to not "see" or acknowledge the pain anymore. I'd love to talk with someone who has had any degree of success with doing that!

This is an old article but it is an intriguing one. I've been dealing with chronic back pain for at least 10 years, I am not even 40 years old. I have had surgery, done physical therapy, and countless injections. I don't want to be in pain, 85% of the time that I am in pain no one has any idea. I don't like talking about it, I don't like drawing attention to it. I don't want anyone to pity me. There are times when the pain feels so unbearable that I feel like I have no choice but to share it with my husband. Could this pain really be in my brain? I am a student and I understand the physiology of the brain. I completely understand that there are neurons and axons and everything communicates. Is it really possible to retrain the brain so the pain signals are diminished? If it is, why hasn't my brain done it yet? Am I what is standing in the way of a pain free life? I will have to do more research and will have to try to incorporate forced positivity into my life. I didn't think I was a negative person by any means. But maybe I am not trying hard enough.

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