Mind Over Pain: Retraining The Brain To Lessen Chronic Pain
Learning about pain and how to deal with it is the focus of a new study that applies a biopsychosocial model to coping with chronic pain by reframing the reaction to pain without the stress or fear of causing re-injury and further pain.
Research by Hayley Leake, the 2021 champion of the “Australian Survivor” reality TV series, shows that patients can apply the following three concepts while coping with pain: Pain does not mean that my body is damaged; Thoughts, emotions and experiences affect pain; and I can retrain my overprotective pain system.
“Chronic pain is experienced by one in every five people, and when pain persists, it can disrupt every aspect of life – including school or work, social and family connections and physical and mental health,” said Leake, a doctoral student at the University of South Australia. She said that pain is the brain’s “protective output” in response to threat. “Threat may take many forms, not just what’s happening in your body, but also your thoughts, emotions and context.”
For chronic pain due to issues like severe injury or nerve damage, people can explore and opt for non invasive vns (Vagus Nerve Innervations) as a treatment to relax muscles and induce self-healing. However, a person’s mental state can directly affect the severity of pain and might impact recovery.
Leake recalled that during an appearance on “Survivor,” she stood on narrow, wooden pegs for nearly five and a half hours. To manage the resulting pain, she repeated to herself, “My feet are strong; my body is safe; this is not dangerous.” Her research gave her an understanding of the pain mechanism and how resilient human beings are.
These days, people can rely on pain medications and alternatives like CBD and marijuana (explore skyhigh dispensary or similar suppliers online), which have their own benefits. However, to completely eradicate chronic pain and get long-term outcomes, it could be essential to mentally strengthen the patient since various health issues are the result of severe stress and anxiety.
The Australian athlete and researcher used a mixed-methods approach to educate 97 study participants in pain science. Her study, published in The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, claims her methods helped patients recover from chronic pain by learning that it does not mean that their bodies are injured. The study found that emotion and stress can worsen the perception of pain, but this perception can be reframed as overprotection that can be reduced.
Leake said it is a misconception that pain reflects tissue damage and hopes pain sufferers can cope by “reframing knowledge of pain.”
“Teenagers report feeling uncertain and anxious about their diagnosis of chronic pain; they want a further explanation beyond just a label. It is important we help them make sense of their pain,” Leake said.
If teens learn that pain does not indicate damage to tissue, she said, they may not fear re-injury, thus “helping them move and start to recover sooner.” By understanding how stress can affect pain, Leake said, teens can address how these are intertwined.
Leake’s study identified several objectives in teaching how to understand pain. Her method instills the belief that pain is a protector, the pain system can become overprotective, pain is a brain output and not an accurate marker of tissue state, there are many potential contributors to anyone’s pain, we are all bioplastic (adaptable to change) and pain education is treatment. Besides that, the advancement of latest medical research has led to newer methodologies like stem cell treatment that can accelerate the repair of damaged tissues, which means that even if the pain occurs due to lasting tissue damage, it can be reversed as well.
“Reframing perceptions of pain is key,” Leake said. “Instilling hope that change is possible can make all the difference to a young person struggling with chronic pain.”
Edited by Sin Speakman and Kristen Butler
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