Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who do not have a psychological condition as a result of chronic pain, you can still benefit greatly from certain psychological treatments that are designed to help people with chronic pain.
Here are five well-proven, fairly simple ways a trained pain psychologist can help you retrain your brain with new ways of thinking about your pain that often have a huge positive impact on both your pain and your ability to function.
You may be asking, “Relaxation? This is a form of psychological treatment?” Yes, it is. And it is a very useful type of “therapy” for many chronic pain patients. Relaxation therapy has a real and measurable effect on the underlying biology of pain, by reducing pain signals at the site of pain and your body’s stress reaction. Although there are many different techniques to relaxation therapy, they all have the same goal: to minimize your body’s response to stress.
The most common relaxation techniques taught to chronic pain patients include deep meditation, music- or sound-induced relaxation, mental imagery, and rhythmic, deep visualized or diaphragmatic breathing. Some patients have found good success with self-teaching relaxation via purchased CDs, tapes, and videos.
2. Imagery Also Relaxes the Mind
Imagery is another favorite and easy technique taught to chronic pain patients. Simply, imagery helps you literally “escape to your favorite place.” By helping you use your imagination to bring you there your body and mind immediately relax and make you feel good about life.
3. Biofeedback Helps You Control Your Stress Reaction
Biofeedback is a popular treatment used in treating chronic pain because it effectively teaches patients how to control their stress reaction, with no bad side effects. With biofeedback, you are hooked up to a device that can measure different bodily functions like blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, sweat gland activity and muscle tension.
The biofeedback machine allows you to obtain this information in real time, either by showing waves on a computer screen or by playing different pitches of noises. With training from a biofeedback practitioner, you will learn how to use relaxation techniques in your brain, body, and “mind” to alter these bodily functions.
4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps You Cope
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has two important parts. The most important part is that you, the patient, need to understand how your thoughts and behaviors can greatly affect your pain, and just as importantly that you can have control over these thoughts and behaviors. In addition, CBT teaches certain coping-skill techniques that give you power over your pain.
You can learn many different techniques to help you gain control over how you react to and think about your pain. Most often, patients are trained in these techniques to determine which ones work best for them. One successful technique is cognitive restructuring which helps you identify your negative pain-related thoughts and then challenge the validity of these negative thoughts and replace them with ones that are more helpful to you.
5. Hypnosis Actually Works for Some
No, we’re not recommending that you go to Las Vegas and plead with the hypnotist at Caesar’s Palace for help! But truly, an experienced hypnotherapist can help some patients with chronic pain. Hypnosis has been successfully used to treat chronic in some patients for several decades. Although the mechanism by which hypnosis works is unknown, it is believed that hypnosis can alter the brain’s functioning to reduce the perception of pain. Studies have actually demonstrated changes in brain activity in patients who are successfully hypnotized.
Even if you don’t have a psychological condition, you likely can still reap great rewards by learning proven, simple pain-relieving techniques from a pain psychologist.
Please comment below if you’ve you had success with any of these techniques.
This article is excerpted with permission from Chapter 11 of Defeat Chronic Pain Now: Groundbreaking Strategies for Eliminating the Pain of Arthritis, Back and Neck Conditions, Migraines, Diabetic Neuropathy and Chronic Illness