The Mind and Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a challenge that more and more people are facing every day. From headaches and migraines to back and joint pain, experiences of chronic pain can seriously disrupt your quality of life. Adding psychotherapy treatment to the more traditional approaches to pain may provide you with a powerful tool for addressing chronic pain.
How does that work?
The more technology advances, the more we are able to study the brain, and we are starting to understand how the brain functions in relation to pain. The latest research shows that pain originates in the brain. But, it’s not a mater of pain being “all in your head”. All pain is real, and each experience of pain is personal and unique. The brain is simply responding to danger signals that it is picking up from all around you.
The mind has an incredible capacity to protect us from what it considers to be dangerous situations or emotional reactions that may generate a fear response. In certain situations, the brain may generate pain as a distraction to keep us safe from experiences that the mind determines to be too painful to bear. Consider a child who has a fallen in the playground. There is moment where the child is not sure whether to cry or not, and their reaction is dependant upon on the reaction of caregivers around them. If there appears to be no danger, then there is no need for a pain response.
What can I do to help my mind release pain?
Strong emotions such as anger, grief and guilt may be one of the causes of ongoing, chronic pain. Learning to identify and experience strong emotions without suppressing them, may result in a reduction of pain. A simple practice is to try paying extra attention to what is happening in your life. Consider what your worries and stressors are, and reflect on how you feel about them. If the feelings are overwhelming or you feel stuck, then seek the help of a qualified psychotherapist who can assist you in this process.