Treating chronic pain isn’t easy. But by combining psychotherapy with exercise and physiotherapy, you can heal both the physical and emotional body.
Why are antidepressants prescribed to people who suffer from chronic pain? Obviously, this is due to our physical state affecting our mental state, and our mental state reflecting as the bodily ailment.
The Effects Of Chronic Pain On The Psyche
Long-term pain has proven to have a different effect on the brain than the short-term pain, as it changes the structure of the central nervous system. It interferes with circuits in the brain that normally inhibit pain.
This is followed by comorbid ailments which form a vicious cycle. The more you are in pain, the more you feel depressed – and the more your spirit deteriorates, the more you are in physical pain.
This makes it hard sometimes to determine whether the pain has led to depression or vice versa.
1. Anxiety And Depression
Pain primarily affects our mood. Long-lasting change in mood can result in a decrease in hormones that lift our mood and energy levels.
This is why chronic pain is usually treated by antidepressants. However, this is known to increase pain, as effects don’t last long and going back to the state of discomfort only nails down the sense of hopelessness.
2. Sleep Deprivation
Chronic pain interferes with our sleep patterns and reduces the hours of effective sleep. This causes damage to the nervous and immune system as well.
As people with chronic pain may suffer from anxiety, an increase in stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol may overstimulate the nervous system which causes restlessness and difficulties falling asleep.
3. Guilt And Low Self-Esteem
Shame and the feeling of worthlessness are common in these situations as we are not able to participate adequately or are unable to participate at all.
The sense of being a burden and letting down people around you can turn from mood to personality. The feeling of guilt we can do nothing about furthers avoidance, and consequently, depression.
4. Memory And Concentration
Chronic pain doesn’t affect just the emotional and physical state, but cognitive performance as well. Studies show that chronic pain can interfere with memory and concentration, preventing long-term memory storage.
Additionally, there’s a reason to believe that chronic pain may actually be a memory. The pain learning process may cause changes in emotional circuitry as both pain and forming of memories are in the domain of the hippocampus.
Possible Methods For Treating Chronic Pain
These are recommended combined. This is due to the vicious cycle created between mental and physical health that continuously deteriorates our well-being.
Simultaneous therapy is a good way of breaking the cycle and eventually treating chronic pain.
1. Psychotherapy And Building Mental Resilience
Some researchers focus on mental resilience as a way of reducing pain. Factors of vulnerability can contribute to distress in those who suffer from chronic pain. These include depressed mood, catastrophic thinking, and maladaptive pain beliefs.
Building resilience through pain acceptance, positive affect, and adaptive pain beliefs is shown to alleviate or buffer the pain and improve social functioning and integration.
This is why you should look for physiotherapists educated in psychology as well. For example, to become a Master of Physiotherapy, you are prerequired to be educated in psychology.
It’s good to find a treatment team, a physician, therapist, pain specialist, and physical therapist. Clinics like Sydney Physio Solutions are an example of a multi-facet approach to physiotherapy, with expert personnel.
3. Bioelectric Therapy
Bioelectric therapy is used to treat back and muscle pains, migraines, diabetic neuropathy, arthritis, and more by blocking the pain messages to the brain.
Although this might not be a long-term solution, it is far less dangerous than medicaments.
If applied regularly, this method can enable normal functioning needed to carry out other methods of improvement. This is especially true given that bioelectric therapy induces endorphins, which not only helps with pain but depression as well.
Regular exercise is beneficial in general and has long-term results. It improves muscle tone and reduces disability when applied according to individual needs.
But it also has many great effects on the psyche, as it drives off other comorbid ailments and improves overall life-quality.
Exercise proves to help with depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and other problems that may be correlated to chronic pain.
Although there are situations where non-pharmacological treatment of chronic pain provides a good solution, you should still consult a professional when considering why and when to seek alternative solutions.