Pain is something that most of us have felt at one point or another in our lives – everything from the pain of a stubbed toe to a broken bone to the painful feeling of a broken heart. But chronic pain – that is, persistent, unrelenting pain that lingers for three to six months or more – affects more than 25 million Americans.
As researchers dive deeper into studying pain, it’s more apparent than ever before that there is a psychological component which plays a significant role in this sensation.
What Is the Mind-Body Connection of Pain?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), evidence has been growing over the past two decades showing that psychological factors can contribute to significant health issues like heart disease – and that mind-body therapies can help combat them.
Similarly, chronic physical pain can cause chronic psychological pain – such as feelings of sadness, despair, rage, and hopelessness. When you’re in pain, it can cause erratic sleep patterns, problems with social relationships, and distractions at work or school.’
What Chemicals in the Body Control Pain?
The two main pain-control chemicals in the central nervous system are serotonin and norepinephrine, and these are triggered by the stress we experience. So this causes a vicious cycle: Stress exacerbates pain, and pain in turn heightens our level of stress.
So, what is someone stuck in this seemingly endless struggle to do?
Psychological Therapies to Help Manage Pain
Proper pain management requires a multi-disciplinary approach to care. Many physicians employ a host of different treatments, including medication, physical therapy, and psychological care, to address both the physical and the emotional aspects that are ailing you.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
A psychologist is equipped to practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which may help you manage negative thought patterns that are worsening your pain. CBT upholds the idea that people (not the situations or experiences they deal with) control their own moods; so, by essentially correcting these moods, patients can develop ways to cope – even when their levels of pain get worse or don’t get better.
A mental health professional can also address mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, which may be residual effects of your discomfort.
If severe pain goes unresolved, or causes a malfunction in the nervous system, these pain signals can linger in the nervous system long after the original source of pain has been healed. To help treat this issue, clinical hypnosis has been proven effective for helping patients alter the activity in specific areas of the brain. The anterior cingulate cortex helps to process the emotional responses we feel, while the sensory cortex registers the intensity of pain.
If your doctor recommends CBT for you, it’s important to keep an open mind and see if this method works to help relieve your pain. Although our modern culture tends to gravitate toward everything being done quickly, CBT takes time and patience – but it has had excellent results for many people suffering from various forms of pain.
Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work for Me?
If you decide to try CBT, you’ll most likely receive “homework” assignments to discuss with your doctor. You may be asked to keep a journal of your feelings and thoughts in relation to pain levels.
Dependency on prescription drugs like opioids is a very real problem in our society, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that one in four people who have been prescribed opioids for long-term use have become dependent or addicted to them. So CBT and other natural therapies are much preferred throughout the medical field.
Who Can Help Me Manage My Pain?
Focusing on positive coping skills and natural therapies can offer a healthy, long-term alternative for the millions of people who are currently dealing with chronic pain. If you’re one of them, don’t delay treatment – call us today.
The reputable team at Lynx Healthcare can help you navigate through this tumultuous journey and start gaining relief from your pain. Our skilled physicians have experience working with people of all ages, and we have assisted with everything from ADHD to depression.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us at (509) 321-4575 in Spokane or (509) 591-0070 for our Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Yakima, or Goldendale locations. You can also click here to chat with a member of our staff now. We look forward to serving you and helping you live a happier, more pain-free lifestyle again.