Healthcare professionals who specialize in treating chronic pain have realized that this condition is not only a feeling or sensation, such as touch or vision, but rather, pain can be influenced by the ways the brain processes pain signals.
Chronic pain may provoke emotional reactions, such as fear or even dread, depending on what we believe concerning the pain signals. In other instances (like in sports or some other engaging, rewarding activity), chronic pain may be viewed as only a nuisance, a sense to be overcome in order to have the ability to continue from the action.
The important role the mind plays in chronic pain is clearly recognized in medical literature, as well as in the International Association for the Study of Pain’s definition of pain, which claims that pain is always subjective and is characterized by the person who experiences it. The corollary is that the brain may also know how to manage the sensation of pain. Using the brain to control pain, or coping strategies, for managing pain, may be used alone or in conjunction with pain management therapies to help ease the symptoms of chronic pain.
Ideally, usage of the chronic pain coping methods outlined in this article can help patients feel less reliant on pain killers and feel more empowered to be able to control their pain throughout their lives.
Managing Chronic Pain
Clearly, the first step in coping with chronic back pain or other types of persistent pain is to receive a comprehensive medical evaluation from a qualified healthcare professional to determine the cause of the pain.
In some situations, such as a herniated disc in the spine, it could be important to look closely at the level and type of pain so that it can serve as a warning sign of impending damage or injury. In other cases, particularly when the back pain is chronic and the health state unchangeable, the primary goal is to attempt to keep the chronic pain out of being the whole attention of someone’s life, in other words, distracting the person from the pain.
Whatever the medical condition, there are a number of effective strategies for coping with chronic back pain. These techniques include:
- Relaxation training: Relaxation involves concentration and slow, deep breathing to release tension from muscles and alleviate pain. Learning how to relax takes practice, but relaxation training may focus attention away from pain and release tension. Relaxation tapes are available to help you learn those skills.
- Biofeedback: Biofeedback is taught by a professional who uses special machines that will assist you on how to control physiological functions, such as heart rate and muscle tension. As you learn how to release muscle tension, relief is instantly indicated. Biofeedback can be used to fortify relaxation instruction. When the technique is mastered, it may be practiced without the use of these special machines.
- Visual imagery and diversion: Visual imagery and diversion involves focusing on psychological pictures of pleasant events or scenes and mentally repeating positive words or phrases to reduce chronic pain symptoms. Tapes are available to help you learn visual imagery and diversion abilities.
- Distraction techniques: Distraction techniques concentrate your attention away from painful or negative images to positive mental thoughts. This may include activities as simple as speaking to a buddy, reading a book or listening to a book on tape, listening to music, or watching a film or television.
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis can be utilized in two ways to lower your perception of pain. A therapist hypnotizes and awards a post-hypnotic proposal that reduces the pain. Others are educated on self-hypnosis and can hypnotize themselves if pain disrupts their ability to function. Self-hypnosis is a form of relaxation training.
All of the above methods for coping with chronic back pain make use of four different kinds of skills:
- Deep Muscle Relaxation,
- Distraction; transferring attention away from the pain signals,
- Imagery; visual, audio or other pictures and thoughts that provide a pleasant and relaxing experience, and
- Dissociation; The ability to divide normally connected mental processes, resulting in feelings of detachment and distance in your chronic pain.
Treating the Whole Body: Biocentrism
According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Although a common reason for many doctor visits in the United States alone, chronic pain is generally a symptom for a bigger, underlying health issue.
In order to understand chronic pain, it’s important to know what it is, and how it differs from other forms of pain, such as acute pain. Unlike acute pain, a normal sensation, triggered by the nervous system which lasts temporarily, chronic pain is persistent and the pain signals continue for weeks, months or even years. The definition of chronic pain is very broad, and is generally defined as any pain lasting for more than 12 weeks.
In relation to biocentrism, the belief that the rights and needs of humans are not more important than those of other living things, a biocentric approach can be applied to those individuals suffering from chronic pain. As mentioned before, just like there are a variety of factors, including injuries and/or conditions, which could cause symptoms of chronic pain, there are also several ways to relieve chronic pain.
The human body is made up of trillions of microscopic cells which come together to form tissues, tendons, ligaments, muscles, organs, blood vessels, and nerves, each performing their own independent function. But, when one part of these complex group of cells is affected, the human body as a whole can be affected. According to biocentric views, it’s essential for healthcare professionals and the patient to care for every organism in the body to promote overall health and wellness. From the food we consume to give energy to the cells and the amount of exercise we engage in to strengthen the tissues, to the quantity of sleep we provide the body to heal itself, all of these factors as a whole should be carefully considered as a part of a chronic pain treatment plan to benefit from whole body well-being.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Wellness
Overall health and wellness are essential towards maintaining the proper mental and physical balance in the body. From eating a balanced nutrition as well as exercising and participating in physical activities, to sleeping a healthy amount of time on a regular basis, following the best health and wellness tips can ultimately help maintain overall well-being. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can go a long way towards helping people become healthy.