Mental strategy exercises for chronic pain relief and improvement. Living with chronic pain is difficult especially if a doctor is saying that it is all taking place in an individual’s head. However, the pain is very real and happening in the brain, literally. Neuroimaging studies show that certain areas of the brain become active when chronic pain presents. This is not the only way to know the brain’s role in how an individual experiences pain. What is also known is:
- Anxiety, depression, and pain activate similar areas of the brain.
- Certain psychiatric drugs used to relieve pain can also alter an individual’s mental state.
- Chronic pain can lead to depression.
- Clinical depression can cause physical symptoms, including back pain.
A health care provider could recommend/suggest psychological support for chronic pain. Psychological help and mental strategy exercises for chronic pain are not about how to reduce the pain, but more on how to reduce the dominance, interference, and impact of the pain and getting a healthy quality of life back. Consider a few evidence-based, psychological approaches to reduce back pain.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT trains an individual to modify specific thoughts and behaviors. Experts consider this approach a gold standard of psychological interventions for pain. It helps:
- Reduce pain
- Improves function
- Improves quality of life
Individuals work on:
- Pain coping strategies
- Relaxation skills
- Setting goals
- Shifting perspectives on pain
A study found that two years after a two-week, intensive course of cognitive-behavioral therapy, patients took fewer pain meds than they did before the therapy.
Meditation is not all about sitting with crossed legs, hands resting on the knees, although this is a recommended pose for meditative purposes. A modern approach can be done anywhere, in any position that’s comfortable and will help soothe back pain. By oneself or with help from a therapist mental strategies can include
- Incorporating breathing techniques
- Guided imagery
- Intense focus on thoughts and feelings
A study suggests that mindfulness meditation can be highly beneficial for older adults that are not as able to get an adequate amount of physical activity to improve pain levels. A group of older adults that participated in eight weeks of a mindfulness program, which consisted of four days a week for 30 minutes per session physical function and pain reduction improved.
Mindfulness stress reduction
Mindfulness stress reduction is a program that teaches individuals meditation techniques, that include basic stretches and postures. It teaches how to separate the physical and psychological aspects of pain. Medical centers across offer this treatment option for a range of disorders, including chronic back pain. It helps reduce pain intensity and improves function in individuals with arthritis as well as back and neck pain from various causes. It has also been found to be effective for fibromyalgia, which can cause intense widespread pain. A study found that mindfulness stress reduction improved:
- Pain episodes
- Sleep problems
- Fatigue in participants with fibromyalgia
- More than half reported significant improvement
Acceptance and commitment therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT teaches acceptance and mindfulness strategies with commitment and behavior mental strategies, to change the way pain is experienced. Numerous studies along with the American Psychological Association validate this approach as an established treatment for chronic pain.
In one study several chiropractic patients who expected their back pain to improve were 58% more likely to improve than those who did not expect favorable outcomes. This mental strategy of manifesting a positive outcome through the power of positive thinking and beliefs about pain influence an individual’s actions.
For example, when thinking that physical activity will cause back pain, individuals are less likely to be active. This is known as fear avoidance. For most individuals with back and neck pain, gentle physical activity is essential because avoiding it will worsen the pain. Having the right mental strategy can go a long way in battling chronic pain, at Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic we can help individuals experiencing/dealing with chronic pain.
Depression and physical health
Depression is debilitating and, in severe cases, a life-threatening disease that affects over 16 million people nationwide. Depression causes are not always clear and can be brought on by:
- Biological factors – genetics
- Individual brain chemistry
- Certain medications
- Unhealthy diet/nutrition
Mental illness and becoming overweight or obese often happen in conjunction, whether as a result of each other or from common risk factors that include:
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Alcohol consumption
Prescribed medications for depression and anxiety disorders are have been shown to be successful in maintaining mental health. However, a side effect of these medications is weight gain. Like genetics, being educated on the potential side effects will help in reducing the risk of, and controlling weight gain when taking medication.
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The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, and sensitive health issues and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate and support directly or indirectly our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation as to how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900. The provider(s) Licensed in Texas& New Mexico*
Pain and Therapy. (Jun 2020) “Rehabilitation for Low Back Pain: A Narrative Review for Managing Pain and Improving Function in Acute and Chronic Conditions.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7203283/
Journal of Psychosomatic Research. (Jan 2010) “Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice.”
European Journal of Pain. (Jan 2019.) “Beliefs about back pain and pain management behaviors, and their associations in the general population: A systematic review.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6492285/