Quite often I have come across this phrase - Relax into the pain.

We can treat a pain but how does one relax into the pain, especially if it's an emotional pain, for example grief?

Can anyone please explain what does this phrase mean?

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    It's just drivel that means pretty much whatever you want it to mean. About as useful as telling someone to "surrender" to the pain. Jan 24, 2016 at 18:20
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    If you want to think of it literally, consider when you're getting a shot; if you tense the muscle, it will cause much more intense and lingering pain. If you relax, the pain isn't nearly as bad. But overall, I agree with @FumbleFingers on this one.
    – Tim Ward
    Jan 24, 2016 at 18:30
  • @FumbleFingers- Surrender to the pain would mean what- simply accept that the pain exists, especially if it is an emotional pain?Thanks.
    – CSinha
    Jan 24, 2016 at 18:41
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    @CSinha: If that "understanding" works for you then that's fine. To me, recommending that someone relax into, surrender to, accept the emotional pain smacks more of advising them to self-indulgently wallow in the pain / self-pity. But as I say, it's the kind of woolly language that's specifically intended to mean whatever you want it to mean, so there's no reason you and I should have the same understanding here. Jan 24, 2016 at 18:52
  • to respond to @FumbleFingers I'd say that language in use is only as exact as it needs to be. if as one of the responses notes, this is the kind of thing that's said during a certain gym exercise, it doesn't need to be that exact at all since the context is very particular.
    – user31341
    Jan 25, 2016 at 1:31

2 Answers 2


Pain causes anxiety because the patient is anxious for the pain to cease (and anxiety reinforces pain). People cannot relax when they are anxious, even if they are at rest. The suggestion here is to stop fixating on the day when the pain will cease; it will cease when it will. Instead, turn your mind to other things so that you can relax.


In the context of static stretching, the advice I've heard is to hold the stretch for quite a while, ranging from 10 seconds to 1 minute. There is often a point at which the stretched muscle relaxes slightly, allowing a greater range of motion. (Note: don't try this at home before getting appropriate advice.)

When a therapist (physiotherapist, occupational therapist, etc) stretches a patient, the period prior to that point of muscle relaxation can be quite painful and possibly alarming. Since the muscle is already taut, the reflex action of tensing the muscle doesn't help.

The advice to relax into the pain might have been given in that context to encourage the patient to endure that initial pain. The metaphorical use of that advice when applied to grief or other emotional pain might be motivated by analogy. The question of how one relaxes into that sort of pain, however, is likely to be very personal and to depend on the individual's circumstances, and therefore out of scope for this forum.

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