Understanding Pain Management in Relation to Psychology

Understanding Pain Management in Relation to Psychology


Pain Management about Psychology

Pain is the feeling of distress that you feel when you are exposed to some kind of damaging stimulus. It isn’t necessarily always physical. Pain can be psychological when the stimulus is directed towards your emotions. Our bodies are equipped to deal with pain. Sometimes, however, it can be hard to tolerate. Thus, different methods cater to pain management and facilitate your relief. How you perceive pain might be different from the way it’s perceived by your peers. The intensity of pain experienced from the same stimulus also varies from person to person.

This article talks about how the feeling of pain emerges and about the strategies used for pain management, enabling the reader to have a better overall understanding of the concept.

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How do you Perceive Pain?

The feeling of pain varies depending on its causal stimulant. This feeling can be characterized by a throbbing, pinching, searing or prickling sensation. Humans experience physical pain for their protection. Pain is a signal that lets you know that something is wrong. When you feel pain due to an injury, it helps you understand that a part of your body is damaged and might need medical attention. This is especially helpful for injuries that don’t cause you to bleed. Aside from this pain also conditions you to stay away from harmful stimuli.

Pain receptors, also known as nociceptors, are special nerve cells present in your body. When these cells are exposed to harmful stimuli (such as high temperature, pressure or harmful chemicals), they release neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that enable communication between nerve cells. By this process, signals are sent to the thalamus, which is a brain region, via the spinal cord. The brain sends back pain signals, which make you perceive the feeling of pain.

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The brain also regulates the amount of pain that you might experience. This happens as it signals the release of natural painkillers (endorphins) to reduce pain perception, or of neurotransmitters that enhance pain. Further, the brain also controls the release of the hormones that stimulate your immune system. Recent studies have shown that the varying amounts of neurotransmitters present in people can justify the varying intensity of pain. It has also shown that pain thresholds might be shaped by one’s genetic makeup.

Strategies for Pain Management:

Psychology intersects with pain management as pain is not just a physical sensation. It also involves cognitive, psychological and social factors that need to be addressed for effective treatment. Self-training and pain management techniques can be used to adapt to life after the experience of pain. By adapting these techniques, you can manage your stress levels and learn how to approach life ahead in a healthy manner. You can always visit professionals who are better equipped to guide you through your recovery journey. Here are some methods used by professionals to contribute to pain management.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

CBT works on the principle that the perception of a situation is influenced by the emotional and behavioural reactions that you have towards it. Thus, CBT is used to understand your thought patterns and how they would affect the levels of stress, anxiety, or other emotional difficulties caused as a result of pain. Further, this method of therapy is used to guide the change in the direction of your thought patterns as an attempt to help in the management of pain and related outcomes.

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2. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):

This method of therapy takes into consideration two simple concepts. First, the therapist guides you to accept the unchangeable consequences that have accompanied your pain. Then, they proceed to help you find ways to continue living a healthy life, letting you commit to giving your life more meaning.

3. Group Therapy:

This method of therapy brings together a group of people who are experiencing pain. It is led by a psychologist, who lets the group understand and break down the different aspects of pain. It also lets you find coping strategies and helps you engage with relaxation techniques. What stands out in this method of therapy is that the group gets to interact and empathize with each other. Discussions amongst the group have their benefits in letting individuals better understand their experience of pain.

4. Talk Therapy:

Usually a one-on-one session with the therapist, this method lets you manage pain by letting out your thoughts and emotions and understanding them in the process. This, along with a medical treatment plan can help in effectively dealing with pain.

5. Relaxation Therapy:

Mainly used as an alternative treatment that goes alongside a medical route of management, it helps you relax your body. It can contribute to bringing physical aspects such as blood pressure and heart rate to an ideal level. It also promotes the release of cortisol, serotonin and endorphins, helping in pain management and stress regulation.

Pain and Coping Mechanisms:

The feeling of pain can be traumatizing at times. It might stop you from doing things that you love. It can also make you distracted. You might end up compromising on other aspects of life because of injuries caused earlier. These are some things that you need to be mindful of after experiencing pain, whether it is emotional or physical.

  • Follow your Doctor’s / Therapist’s Advice: If you are recovering from an injury, this is the main thing to keep in mind. Whether it is advice about lifestyle changes that your doctor has recommended or medications that they have prescribed, always keep it in mind for a healthy recovery.
  • Distract yourself from the Pain: Do not dwell on it. Find ways to distract yourself. Go watch a movie or spend time with your loved ones. You can even go out and socialize.
  • Live an Active Lifestyle: Don’t let your fear stop you from doing things you enjoy doing. Pain is a natural part of life. You can’t let it be a barrier. Engage in activities like meditation or low-impact exercise that will keep your mind fresh and you, active.
  • Be Mindful about your Limits: Sometimes, it’s easy to lose yourself after a major injury or a painful incident. Some people want to escape so badly that they push themselves too far. While you might want to overcome that painful part of your life, there is a healthy way of doing it. Don’t take too much on your plate if you can’t handle it.
  • Never Give Up: The most important of all remember that there’s hope always. Don’t let go of yourself. There are many treatment options to overcome physical injuries and more therapeutic options that will let you deal with the feelings associated with pain. Opt for those if you are having trouble managing pain by yourself. You might learn to put it in the past. Maybe, you’ll even see it in a different light.

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References +
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/12095-pain-psychological-treatment
  • https://www.apa.org/topics/pain/management
  • https://www.physio-pedia.com/Psychological_Approaches_to_Pain_Management
  • https://pain.wustl.edu/patient-care/pain-psychology/what-is-pain-psychology-and-what- do-we-do/
  • https://www.nva.org/learnpatient/how-we-feel- pain/#:~:text=A%20pain%20message%20is%20transmitted,release%20neurotransmitters%20within%20the%20cells.

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