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 Back Pain  Holistic-online.com

Mind-Body Approaches to Pain

Thoughts, feelings, and other people's responses can affect the way you feel about pain. Several psychological interventions are available that can help make the pain much more manageable, and in some cases, totally eliminate it.

Many pain patients find that their pain is worst when they feel depressed and hopeless. The pain is not so bad when they are focused on doing something that demands attention or is enjoyable. The physical cause of pain may be identical; but the perception of pain is dramatically different.

The gate theory offers a partial explanation for such great variation in the experience of pain. But it does not give the whole story. The missing pieces may be the role of psychological factors on the pain. 
For example, thoughts and emotions can directly influence physiological responses such as muscle tension, blood flow, and levels of brain chemicals that play important roles in the production of pain.

Scientists at University of Pittsburgh found that stressful thoughts lead to pain only in those parts of the body that are already physically vulnerable. They placed muscle tension sensors on the lower backs, forearms, and foreheads of three groups of volunteers: patients with back pain, patients with other types of pain, and pain-free people. Their muscle tension was monitored while they recalled and described in great detail the last time they experienced extreme pain and their last episode of severe stress. When discussing these events, people with back pain had a higher tension level in their back muscles-and only in their back muscles-than they did when the experiment began. The other two groups showed no change in back tension.

How you cope with the pain also affects your experience of pain. For example, anticipating pain before it strikes can worsen the situation. This may be more important in cases of pain such as migraine headaches.

You may feel that you have no control over your physical condition. This can sap you of the inner strength to fight back. Even relatively minor problems may appear very serious. The result is that you will be tempted to remain passive and inactive. Some people will try to cope with this situation by turing to excessive medication or alcohol.

Sometimes your interactions with other people can augment your discomfort by inadvertently rewarding you for the pain. We often use symbols such as moans, groans, grimaces, and limps to convey our pain to others. Your friends or family members may respond to these signals in ways that harm you in the long run. If others start paying special attention to you when pain strikes, you may unconsciously seek attention by having an episode of pain.

Mind-body interventions such as relaxation training and biofeedback work by helping control physiological responses that contribute to pain production. Others help patients manage stress-inducing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that can open the pain gates. All help increase the sense of control over pain and the factors that influence it. It is often possible to reduce the dosage of the pain medicine required by complimenting your drug therapy with mind-body therapies.

See Also:     Biofeedback Cognitive Restructuring Distraction Imagery

 Exercise Pain Clinic Problem Solving Relaxation

Next Topic: Neural Therapy

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