Most of us often avoid touching painful areas. However, some desensitization techniques may help to ‘reset’ irritable nerves in some pain conditions. When your brain receives different sensory impulses, it begins to process the pain signal more normally. Over time, the pain experience will become more tolerable and less unpleasant.
- Gentle massage may be tried starting in the the area next to the painful area first.
- Towel rubs:
- Use a cloth or towel (such as polar fleece or cotton towels) to gently rub the affected area. Different textures may be tried.
- Gentle tapping:
- Use a wooden spatula to gently tap the affected area.
- Gently stretch the joint around the painful area.
- Rice or sand bins:
- Fill an empty storage bin or plastic dish tub with clean sand, uncooked rice, or uncooked beans. Put the affected part of the body into the bin and try to move it.
- Contrast baths:
- Use two large bowls or plastic dish tubs, one with cool water and a few ice cubes and one with warm water. Immerse the affected body part in 1 bin for 2 to 3 minutes then switch to the other bin. Repeat this 2 to 3 times. Always finish with the warm water bath. Ensure the temperature is not over 42 degrees Celsius.
Graded desensitization is not for everyone, but it probably has less harm than long term opioid therapy or other medications. Do speak to your friendly pain specialist about the options for managing your pain because everyone’s pain is different.