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Managing Chronic Pain: The Mind-Body Approach

Doctor Q&A

Psychologist with the Shawnee Mission Center for Pain Medicine

Chronic pain is more than constant physical discomfort—it also increases psychological stress and strain, which in turn may further aggravate your pain. Because of this mind-body connection, by treating the mental aspects of pain, we can also treat the physical pain.

Minimizing Psychological Aspects of Pain

Traditional treatments, such as medication, injections, and surgery, focus on addressing the physical aspects of pain. However, psychological counseling and support may be your best option if you are suffering from the emotional anguish caused by pain.
Psychological counseling is as individual as your pain. Through one-on-one counseling sessions, you can learn about the connection between your emotions and pain. Working with a psychologist will help you learn alternate ways of thinking and doing to improve your ability to function through pain.

Another option is biofeedback, which focuses on relaxing your muscles and decreasing tension by encouraging positive thinking. A heart and muscle monitor may be used to help determine your stress levels, tension, and discomfort in different scenarios. Learning how to relax your muscles helps improve blood circulation and gives your body a better ability to control pain.

Living With Chronic Pain

Many chronic pain patients feel misunderstood because they may look deceptively healthy to outside observers. Often, friends and family cannot understand why patients experiencing chronic pain are unable to function as well occupationally or socially. To help deal with the emotional and physical effects of chronic pain, the Shawnee Mission Center for Pain Medicine suggests the following steps:

  • Document it. Keep a record of your pain and the things that exacerbate it to help determine which activities increase your pain so you can limit your participation in them. It will also help physicians determine potential underlying causes of your pain.
  • Be honest with yourself. Acknowledging that your pain is real can help set you free from it. Even further, understanding your limits will help you avoid aggravating your symptoms.
  • Call your doctor. He or she can help determine the cause of your pain and work collaboratively with other pain medicine professionals to find the treatment options that are best for your individual situation.

Shawnee Mission Health is one of the few pain centers in Kansas City to staff a full-time psychologist to apply this mind-body approach to help manage pain and improve quality of life. For more information, contact the Center for Pain Medicine online or by phone at 913-676-2370.

Tagged: Pain Relief