Soothing the Senses for Pain Management

Soothing the senses for pain management - sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell

In the last few Pilates for People with Scoliosis and Pilates for People with Spinal Fusions classes, we brainstormed ideas about soothing the senses for pain management and stress reduction.  This activity was so fun and came from The Pain Management Workbook by Rachel Zoffness.  The book examines factors that contribute to chronic pain, including biological, mechanical, psychological, and social factors.

Self-soothing is a coping strategy that involves engaging in pleasant, comforting, and calming activities focused on the five senses to relieve stress.  These activities can help us feel safe, calm our nervous system, and turn the pain dial down.  I’m excited to share the ideas all of the classes came up with in each of the five senses. 

Many of these experiences overlap several senses.  Think about a hot bath with lavender Epsom salts as heat and water (touch) coupled with scent.  Or consider a cup of coffee as touch (hands around a warm mug), scent (ground coffee), and taste. 

Soothing Sights

Blue skies, mountains with a clear sky or shrouded in fog or shaded by clouds, ocean waves, lush green nature, plants, a vase of flowers, Lake Michigan, Lake Tahoe, the moon, snow that sparkles like diamonds, the ripples of the Hudson River, the ripples of the Boise River, lavender in full bloom, sunrise, all of the different shapes and sizes of trees, sunset, Central Park in early spring, cherry blossoms, a cattail marsh dotted with birds

Soothing Sounds

  • Windchimes
  • Yoga nidra sleep meditation
  • Rain or wave musicscapes
  • Books on tape
  • Classical music
  • Children’s laughter
  • Ocean waves in the dark night
  • Birds chirping
  • Dog feet walking across the floor
  • Distant muffled conversation
  • A cat purring
  • A sleeping baby
  • An orchestra tuning its instruments
  • An animal sleeping
  • Lofi hip hop radio
  • Trickling water

Soothing Touch

Heat, cold, water, massage, self-mayo fascial release (rolling a ball under our feet), stretching, petting a pet, a hug, suede or buttery leather, an electric blanket, touching trees/leaves/dirt/natural things, weight of a cat, heating pad, weight of a quilt or blanket, hands wrapped around a hot mug, silk pillowcases, cool breeze on a hot day, cotton modal shirts, Barefoot Dreams soft and fluffy blankets

Soothing the senses for pain management multi sensorial

The weight of a puppy, petting Kami, and a heating pad – multi-sensorial soothing!

Soothing Scents

Lilacs, pine trees, flowers, hyacinth, roses, verbena, orange, lemon, grapefruit, rain, ocean, cedar, lemongrass, Christmas trees, eucalyptus, grilled foods, freshly ground coffee, baking cookies, honey and orange blossoms

Soothing the senses for pain management - scent

Soothing Tastes

  • Good Earth tea
  • Lemon water
  • Sweets
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Cherries
  • Peppermint
  • Baked goods
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Apple juice
  • Fruit juice popsicles
  • Jasmine tea
  • Green tea
  • Coffee
  • Honey
  • Fresh mint
  • Grilled meats
  • Sour pickles
  • Scallops
  • Peanut butter
  • Matzo ball soup
  • Biscuits
  • Onion and garlic
  • Fake cheese
  • Chicken noodle soup

When pain, discomfort, or stress show up in our lives, soothing the senses can serve as a lovely tool for pain management.  I’d love to hear if you soothe your senses for pain management and how you do so.