Deep Relaxation and Managing Pain
Last updated: August 2023
When my life-long migraines became chronic in 2005, I was told that regular exercise would help. So I developed a walking habit that, I guess, helped me. I couldn't tell - maybe I was sleeping better, but really there was no sense of symptom relief I could attribute to walking. And on bad migraine days, even walking was out of the question.
Discovering deep relaxation for migraine
About ten years ago, I tried acupuncture for migraine pain. It didn't help the migraines but I left the sessions feeling relaxed and peaceful in a new way. It was as though I didn't know I could relax that much until acupuncture showed me what was possible. I applied the sense memory of that feeling to my meditation practice, and also learned deep muscle relaxation. I use those practices when the pain is bad and I need to rest because they help lead me into a very deep meditative state. Although the migraine pain persists, my body and mind are so relaxed the pain seems not so important.
Stretching helps with deep relaxation
Another aide for deep relaxation is somatic stretching, which I came across at random last October. I paid a nominal fee to the online site, Somatic Movement Center. They sent emails for 50 or 60 days, every third or fourth one with a new, very simple to learn, somatic stretch, the in-between messages being review and reminders.
Somatic stretching is based on the principle that stretching a muscle for a few seconds and then releasing very slowly teaches a muscle to relax much better than does the traditional stretching and holding it for 30 seconds. I don't really understand the physiology of it, I just know it works quite well for me.
The stretches help me even more than the acupuncture did, maybe because I can do them at home whenever I want. They are now part of my 2-3 times per week exercise routine, and I also do a couple of my favorites when I have a migraine and want to relax or sleep. I also use them as stress relievers when I feel my shoulders and neck tighten on a tense day.
So much of living with chronic migraine is out of my control. The somatic stretches, along with what acupuncture taught me, help me gain a bit of that control back.
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?