The surprising ways puzzles can help you cope with pain

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Puzzles are often seen as a simple hobby and a way to relax and pass the time. They provide a daily challenge that keeps the mind occupied and the opportunity to test our abilities to see if we can complete the puzzle. There are also ways that they can help you cope with chronic pain and illness and in this post I tell you how.

Distraction is a useful tool in anyone’s pain management toolbox. Being distracted from your pain is about engaging in an activity or thoughts to take your attention away from your pain.

The distraction process is about concentrating on something so that your brain doesn’t have chance to think about or focus on your pain. In simple terms, it’s about keeping your mind busy. It does not mean the pain will go away, but your attention is focused on something else, and this can be very powerful and effective.

One way to use distraction is by doing puzzles. They are cheap and easily accessible – via books and apps for example – and can easily be done while resting during a pain flare up.

What are puzzles?

According to Google, the definition of a puzzle is: “a game, toy, or problem designed to test ingenuity or knowledge“.

There are so many puzzles out there that it is impossible to list every one, but here are a few examples:

  • Jigsaw
  • Crossword
  • Soduku
  • Worsearch
  • Kriss kross or letter fit
  • Codeword
  • 3D puzzles
  • Spot the difference
  • Logic and cryptic
  • Word ladder
  • Riddles

Puzzles have been around for a long time – the jigsaw was invented in 1762 and the crossword came about in 1913 – and are popular across all age groups.

How puzzles can help you cope with chronic pain

Doing a puzzle can…

Provide mental exercise

We very often hear that we need to keep our brains active and help prevent diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia. Well doing puzzles can help keep our brains very active. They are a form of mental exercise and we all need to keep our brains sharp and alert to help us cope with life’s challenges, especially when coping with pain.



Boost your wellbeing

Trying something new and completing a tricky challenge can give us a sense of achievement. It pushes us out of our comfort zones which is the place that helps us grow. And knowing we can do and achieve something new boosts confidence and makes us feel good.

I often look at a puzzle in my book and think I can’t do it. But when I give it a go and realise that I can do it, it helps me know I can face new challenges and that sense of achievement is even greater.

All this helps us boost our wellbeing and helps us feel good.

Improve memory

As we age our memories get worse and this can be very frustrating and annoying. This is also something that most people with chronic pain or illness struggle with – brain fog, fatigue and that feeling of being washed out can all affect our memories. Doing a regular puzzle workout can help the brain maintain the ability to recall memories.

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Stop the boredom and negative mindset

Puzzles are a simple and fun way to help stop you from being bored. They can also help you from dwelling on negative thoughts that often take over your mind and can lead to feeling low and down about our situation.

Help you learn new things

Depending what puzzle you do, this can be learning new words through a crossword or kiss Kross puzzle; about new people in a riddle; or pictures from history or of places via a jigsaw.

Improve your focus

The more focused you are the more distraction you will feel, and this is nothing but a good thing when it comes to coping with pain and illness.

It’s sometimes hard to get going, and a puzzle is probably the last thing you want to be doing. But just do it anyway and you’ll see the benefits.


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Help you develop problem solving skills

Those with chronic pain or illness often face more problems than anyone. We often have to overcome barriers and find other ways of doing things.

Doing puzzles can help us improve our attention to detail, and this can help us across all areas of life. Seeing the detail of problems can help us overcome them much easier.

Help you be more mindful

Mindfulness is a big part of pain and stress management. It means you are fully present in the moment and what you are doing. When you do a puzzle, that is exactly what you are doing – you are fully engaged with the task and it can help stop you thinking about your pain (or anything else for that matter).

Reduces stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are very often symptoms of chronic pain. When we are feeling stressed or anxious, our minds race and we focus on lots of negative and unhelpful stuff.

Stress is a cycle that needs to be broken. One way we can break that cycle is by doing a puzzle. You will soon start to feel much calmer and more in control.

The same goes for anxiety. Anxiety thoughts lead to anxious behaviours, and a puzzle can help break the chain and distract you from those thoughts.


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Help increase productivity

When we are happier, less anxious, and less stressed, it is much easier to stay positive and focused. This leads to being more productive and allows us to get more done in our days. This can help us feel more in control of our lives and that our pain isn’t dictating and taking over.

Doing a puzzle in between tasks can help you feel refreshed, refocused and reset your mind to help you to move on to your next activity.

Give them a go and see how they can help you

There’s a puzzle for everyone – so give them a go and make them a part of your pain management toolbox and see how they can hep you today.

Your thoughts

Do you already do puzzles?

Which are your favourites?

How do they help you?

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9 thoughts on “The surprising ways puzzles can help you cope with pain

  1. Gemma - Wheelescapades says:

    I love doing all kinds of puzzles, I mainly do them on my phone or laptop now due to physical limitations. However you can get almost anything on an app these days. I have sudoku, one called puzzle page which is like a magazine page of puzzles daily, and a jigsaw one that goes to 500+ pieces. If I’m feeling stressed, irritated or uncomfortable I just do one of these for 15 minutes.

  2. kkr0cks says:

    I also use puzzles for distraction from pain and anxious thoughts. I love playing Solitaire and Mahjong on my computer, and word games on my phone.

  3. Sandy says:

    Really great post! What’s nice about puzzles is that there are so many different types and variations in level of difficulty. They can also help pass the time when you may not be in pain but may be too fatigued do anything requiring physical activity.

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