How Individual Therapy And Holistic Interventions Can Naturally Help With Pain Management
Most people would not think of seeing a psychologist for pain management. They would go to their Internist or a pain doctor. Most of us believe that physical pain only begins as a medical problem and not a psychological one. Also understandably, a patient can feel insulted or dismissed by their doctor if they suggest that a person also seeks psychological help to aid with their pain. For example, a patient may have revealed they have ongoing pain from a medical procedure, and they get referred for therapy.
What needs to be made clear, is that the physician is not dismissing them, but they are trying to get them well-rounded care to treat their pain. Therapists and doctors genuinely believe that the patient’s pain is very real and that it is rooted in a number of factors, including physical and emotional causes.
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Psychology for Chronic Pain
There are numerous reasons to see a psychologist to aid with chronic pain. Each person’s pain is subjective, meaning what may be a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 for one person, may be a 7 for another. We can’t assume or judge an individual’s experience. We can only try and understand it.
This is where a psychologist comes in. A psychologist can help the individual discover if there are lifestyle factors contributing to their pain. They can help the individual think of modifications so that they can continue to participate in their daily life. They can be an unbiased third party when the person feels that they are burdening people in their lives discussing their pain. Physical and emotional treatment can give the patient the greatest opportunity for success in the long term.
Many times pain occurs along with depression or anxiety. The individual may have had these conditions first, or they may have developed these conditions from dealing with chronic pain.
The Role of Psychology
Pain can have many causes and reasons that make it worse, such as long-running conflict with another, or have experienced a traumatic injury at some point.
A psychologist can really help you feel a sense of control over your life again, and that your pain does not control you. They can help the individual deal with the mood symptoms that they are struggling with. They can teach them calming and relaxation tools and techniques, as well as biofeedback to control their internal processes. A psychologist can also help the individual deal with long-standing issues that stress the individual, and therefore worsen their pain. Such individuals may experience low self-esteem and negative beliefs about themselves or have never addressed and found closure on any history of abuse, reduce the stress in their life that increases their pain, as well as resolve any emotional issues that contribute to physical tension and stress.
The stress response is responsible for a multitude of pain-causing issues, muscle, joint, and digestive issues being the most common. If the individual is under frequent stress, the body does not have time to recover and starts to malfunction. When all of these factors are addressed, the individual may develop a goal of decreasing their use of pain medications.
Another important factor to note is that an individual dealing with chronic pain has often been suffering for quite some time. Their life has become limited, and they have many feelings that a therapist can help them sort through.
The Mind and Body Connection
So it becomes more and more important to understand the connection between the mind and the body. We can start to see how our body responds to emotions. Many studies estimate that stress is responsible for up to 77% of illness, even major illness like cancer. I can’t think of a better reason to address unresolved conflicts and to remove toxic people from your life. They may be literally stressing you to illness. A therapist can work with a patient to learn to be assertive and to reduce people and stressors from their lives.
Hypnosis is thought to be helpful in addressing chronic pain issues. It helps both sides of the brain communicate, and can cross a physical and emotional barrier to ease pain and address trauma. Biofeedback can also be exceptionally effective, as it helps us learn for ourselves the unique ways in which each if our bodies experience pain. This understanding can enable an individual to learn to control the way their body experiences pain and helps them better manage it.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps the individual learn that they can have control of their pain. With long-term pain, many people have begun to feel hopeless, and that nothing can be done to make them feel better. CBT helps the person devise plans, and makes them feel a new sense of control. The person may write in a journal what they were thinking or feeling around the time of a flare, or who they may have been talking too.
For example, if the person has a flare every time they speak with a certain family member, there is more to be explored to resolve for the patient’s well-being. CBT also teaches the person valuable relaxation and stress reduction skills, and to learn to identify when other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety are having an impact on the level of pain and suffering there are feeling.
Learning to cope with pain might also include activities such as taking walks, visiting with friends, and developing distracting hobbies, such as adult coloring books, or other activities within their physical abilities. A social support system is essential, as a strong relationship with family and friends can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety experienced by individuals with chronic pain.
Also, taking part in as many activities as possible that the individual took part in before their pain began, can have a very positive impact on their emotional well-being. There are additional holistic forms of treatment including acupuncture, physical therapy, yoga, mindfulness and therapeutic massage. Some individuals take medication, some undergo surgery, while some want to try and implement more holistic means first.
It is always a welcome attitude for medical professionals, to hear that you want to try more holistic means and that you have the strength and conviction to try whatever you can to make yourself feel better and to take control of your pain. Between lifestyle changes, a good physician, attending weekly individual therapy, and various holistic approaches, the individual can truly, naturally help with their pain management.
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