How does psychological intervention manage chronic pain?

The existence of pain is part of an evolutionary mechanism that allows us to react quickly in the event of a health problem. In fact, it is so useful that all vertebrate animals and a large portion of invertebrates have the ability to feel it, and people with conditions that prevent them from feeling pain are at a much greater risk of continuing to compromise their pain. physical integrity.

However, in the same way that the parts of the body responsible for the sensation of pain can be affected by a disease which suppresses it, the reverse can also occur: that for an alteration, the pain is practically constant, without it being there is element. that damages cell tissue in the body or nothing is done to remedy the problem that is causing it. In situations like this we are talking about chronic pain; in this article we will see how it is approached in psychotherapy.

    What is chronic pain?

    Chronic pain is the subjective and localized perception of a more or less intense pain which remains relatively constant beyond the healing time; it can last for weeks, months and even years.

    The causes of this disorder may be infections, to put pressure or pinching on certain nerves (for example, due to a tumor or a complicated operation) associated with chronic disease, or it may be neuropathic, such as which arises when the problem is the very operation. of the nervous system itself.

    These feelings of discomfort can manifest themselves through various subjective experiences: punctures, tingling, burning or deep pain that affect more or less large areas of the body. Likewise, these symptoms may vary within a few hours and intensify under certain conditions: For example, on days of most physical activity or when the person can’t stop thinking about their own pain.

    Techniques of psychological intervention in chronic pain

    Since the sensation that causes pain varies from person to person, psychological interventions should always be tailored to each patient’s needs and the type of discomfort they are experiencing. But beyond the specific cases, there are a number of therapeutic procedures that have been shown to be statistically effective in dealing with chronic pain. We will see them below.

    1. Relaxation techniques

    Relaxation techniques aim to reduce a person’s tension, stress and anxiety levels and allow them to shift attention beyond discomfort.

    These procedures based on the assumption that pain increases with anxiety, stress and excessive activation of the person’s body, Both at the cardiac level and at the general level of stress.

      2. Biofeedback

      Biofeedback is about creating a context in which the patient can obtain real-time information on his level of activation (Thanks to sensors applied to your skin), especially in terms of your nervous activity.

      This allows the person with chronic pain to integrate a number of useful strategies for emotional management and the regulation of certain physiological processes; in this way, it manages to normalize the modified physiological activation and regulation systems.

      3. Hypnosis

      Clinical hypnosis is another of the psychological therapies that have been shown to have positive effects on the management and alleviation of chronic pain. It is a suggestion-based procedure and in establishing a state of consciousness similar to that which arises just before bedtime, which allows the discomfort to be evaded and the mind to be directed to other sources of stimulation.

      4. Mindfulness

      Mindfulness is a series of practices that promote the emergence of a psychological state called MindfulnessThis allows you to detach yourself from intrusive thoughts and emotional dynamics that perpetuate discomfort. It is inspired by Vipassana meditation.

      5. Techniques related to the cognitive-behavioral model and ACT

      Chronic pain is often linked to psychological problems that go beyond the pain itself and result in symptoms of anxiety and depression; the two sources of discomfort are mutually reinforcing. Therefore, in therapy, we also work to weaken the alteration by its purely emotional facet and associated with certain beliefs and feelings about oneself and the disease from which one suffers.

      Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most used by psychologists, And its application in combination with proper medical treatment has been shown to be effective in effectively reducing a person’s pain and the negative moods that cause it. It consists of a change in belief systems, thought patterns, thoughts and habits that, without our realizing it, reinforce and perpetuate the disorder that affects us.

      Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is part of contextual therapies, which are themselves based on the cognitive-behavioral model. This is based on the importance of not adopting behavioral patterns associated with avoiding discomfort anyway, as this strategy results in the paradoxical effect of paying more attention to what makes us feel bad. Thus, it offers ways of accepting the existence of physical and / or emotional pain, at least to some extent, so that the rest of the day-to-day experiences and sensations reduce its prominence and promote its alleviation.

      Are you looking for treatment for chronic pain?

      If you are interested in starting a process of therapy for chronic pain, contact our team of professionals. Fr Psychology of Cribecca we have many years of experience in the treatment of this type of alterations and the psychopathologies associated with them. We offer face-to-face sessions and also as online therapy.

      Bibliographical references:

      • IsHak WW; Wen, RY, Naghdechi, L .; Vanle, B .; Dang, J .; Knosp, M. et al. (2018). Pain and depression: a systematic review. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 26 (6): pages 352-363.
      • Principal, CJ; Spanswick, CC (2001). Pain management: an interdisciplinary approach. New York: Elsevier.

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