Doing Life Together

neck painSusan’s leg injury was healed more than two months ago, so why is she still having chronic pain? Her family thinks it is all in her head, but is it? Her doctor can’t find a reason for the pain and questioned her about stress in her life. Susan admitted that she is going through a contentious divorce and work situation. She has little hope for her life to improve in the next year.

Pain is complex. It is both a sensory and an emotional experience, influenced by our thoughts and beliefs, stress and other social factors. Chronic stress and psychological issues can develop and exacerbate pain. If you are dealing with chronic pain, consider the mind-body connection.

1) Distraction. Pain demands attention. But when we focus on the pain, it worsens and amplifies. Distraction can be used to decrease pain intensity.

2) Check your thoughts. How we think about pain influences our experiences with it. If you believe you can mange the pain and cope with it, you will. Confidence improves functioning. If you believe your functioning depends on other people doing things, you will do worse than if you believe you have some control over the pain. And if you dwell on the pain and think catastrophic thoughts like, “I’ll never get better,” your pain will worsen. Your expectations about the pain can worsen or improve your functioning.

3) Fear and avoidance: The more you fear and avoid doing things because of the pain, the more the pain will worsen. Consequently, this reinforces avoidance. Fear can actually be more disabling than the pain itself. The fear of pain can also lead to depression and depression makes pain feel worse.

4) Anger: Anger from chronic pain is often unrecognized. When anger and hostility are present, they can reduce the body’s natural pain killers and increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. Work through that anger and release it to feel better.

5) Being passive: People who are passive in response to pain threats show greater distress and disability than people who attempt to solve problems.

The mind can exercise power over the body when we are dealing with chronic pain. One of the strongest predictors of work outcome for patients with pain is recovery expectations. So check your thoughts, emotions and behavior.

Could you be adding to the pain by not understanding the power of negative thoughts, expecting the worse, organizing your life around the pain due to fear and not addressing your emotions? If so, use this information to make changes in the way you think, behave and deal with your emotions.

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