A multisensory environment and a sensory diet may just be the ticket to pain management triggered by sensory processing disorders. When we think of sensory diets, which are used for treating Sensory Processing Disorder, we often think of children with neurological challenges such as Autism. However, sensory processing disorder in adults is just as real, having a direct impact on chronic pain. In fact, the right sensory input like deep touch for example, can act as a pain inhibitor and release endorphins to reduce pain perception.
A sensory diet is not a restrictive diet by any means, but a great way of feeding your sensory system. Your senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing and smell, as well as the sense of motion and body space, all respond to incoming information from the outside world. Each person has a unique sensory system with sensory preferences, whether we are receiving the sensory input we need or not, it can dramatically affect our mood and how we perceive pain.
So, let's take a detailed look at these seven senses and see how a multisensory room experience and sensory diet, can be used to minimize or relieve chronic pain.
There are thousands of touch receptors right under your skin, with the right type of stimulation, they can release endorphins and reduce pain symptoms. That is why therapeutic touch, massage, and other touch therapies can be highly effective. However, using your own hands to experience touch can be effective too. Try touching; different surfaces, warm water, cooking flour and art mediums, to get a touch experience that can help rewire pain signals with a creative bonus.
We call it music to your ears but your auditory perception can reduce pain signals too. Music varieties may have a profound effect on how you perceive pain signals and may even diminish them altogether. Think of your favorite song and where your mind goes when you hear it. At the very least it draws your attention away from your pain. Vibration can be beneficial as well, instruments like harps, pianos, guitars, violins and others provide vibrational frequencies that can be highly beneficial.
Much like music, an exquisite sight can release endorphins and help to reduce pain. It might be the sight of the ocean, a majestic scene, art or a beautiful person. Perhaps it’s a city lit up at night or a starry sky, the list is endless! Beauty really can go far beyond the mind to stimulate the senses and help relax and calm an agitated nervous system.
Our sense of smell is quite powerful, using aromatherapy and soothing scents such as lavender, sage, and lemongrass can calm and relax the sympathetic nervous system. This can also stimulate the parasympathetic system, resulting in a calmer response to stimuli and a less triggered response to incoming sensory information.
Comfort foods and favorite snacks can go a long way toward moderating your pain. Whether it’s your mother’s chicken soup, your favorite go-to cup of hot tea or holiday meal, food can be healing. Although comfort foods often get a bad rap when it comes to nutrition, they can go a long way when it comes to redirecting our thoughts away from our pain center and soothing a stressed tummy.
There are many benefits to movement, for one, muscle weakness can cause or exacerbate pain increasing wear and tear on the joints. Movement can also help strengthen muscles and repair joints. In addition, motion can improve circulation, bringing much-needed nutrition to areas that are lacking. Finally, motion can trigger our vestibular system, which can help orient our bodies to space, reducing overly active pain centers.
Having an awareness of where your body is in reference to your surroundings, can actually help to relax your nervous system. When the muscles are relaxed around your joints, it provides a better response to your environment. So, for example, if I am slumped in my chair at work, certain areas will probably begin to hurt. However if I readjust my position and bring awareness to my body, my muscles will have less strain, which means less pain!
Be creative and experiment with your sensory diet, particularly when you have moments of fatigue or pain!
Ilana Danneman is a physical therapist, blogger, writer, and the owner of Be Well For You. If you need any more information on sensory rooms or products, please contact Experia USA’s friendly team of experts.
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