How do you Handle Pain?

This week I want to highlight three different articles, all focusing on different ways to treat pain. The first article is about a study done to show how fear may affect the amount of pain we are in. The second one is a personal story of a friend who is beating her chronic nerve pain with exercise. And the third examines how music can actually help various health conditions. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

Fear of Pain Triggers Crippling Anxiety for Some but Not All 

Kinesiophobia is the fear of movement, and often times individuals with chronic pain have this condition. People living with different types of pain are given self-report questionnaires about their level of pain. But the issue is that people report pain differently depending on their pain thresholds. This article looks at a recent study that examined brain studies to try and find a correlation between a patient’s brain study and their scores on these self-reported questionnaires to gauge how different emotional states (i.e. fear) is linked to neural patterns in their brain. Right now, there is no definitive answer to this question, but researches are optimistic that soon there will be a way to definitively determine how each patient copes with pain-related fear.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Converting self-reported subjective feelings to objective findings when it comes to #pain is difficult—kinesiophobia (fear of movement) makes it even more difficult. That’s one reason why this study is interesting. “What makes this neuroscience-based approach and the brain scans below significant is that these images represent the first time researchers have correlated self-reported emotions relating to pain with specific neural signatures.” In my discussions with behavioral psychologists over the past eight years, “fear avoidance” is a primary red flag for delayed recovery (along with perceived injustice and catastrophization). Being afraid to move because it might hurt—or that it might do additional damage—is a totally reasonable emotional response. But unless the treating physician believes movement will indeed cause more damage, not moving because of that fear can likewise do damage. And based on this study, the damage is just not physical (i.e. de-conditioning) but emotional and psychological.

Why Exercise is My Best Sleeping Pill 

Although many people with chronic pain are afraid to exercise, this article is a great example of how exercise can actually benefit and help your chronic pain. My friend, Becky Curtis, has chronic nerve pain and said one of her most challenging problems with dealing with nerve pain is sleeping. She took many sleeping pills a night, and often found herself awake at 3 a.m. It wasn’t until she one day decided to take her doctors advice and start exercising that she noticed after several months, she was sleeping better. It started slow and has been a long journey, but in the end she believes exercise helps not only her sleep, but also her pain.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Becky Curtis had an attitude at one point that “moving made my pain worse” (kinesiophobia– see my other post above). But then she realized that just laying there and taking sleeping pills was actually worse than the pain from exercise. And so she moved. And has kept moving (I know because I’ve hiked with her). Not surprisingly, she found clinical evidence to back up her movement—”His conclusion is that inactivity is shriveling our brains and allowing stress to become toxic—both of which can be reversed with regular exercise.” So if you’re in #ChronicPain, do what Becky does: Move.

How Music Can Help Health Conditions 

If you’re like most people, music is a daily part of your life. What you may not know, is that there has been a growing amount of research that shows music, either alone or with other medicine, can help various health conditions. It is believed that music can help with depression, dementia and chronic pain, just to name a few.

Mark’s Thoughts:
“I bet you change what you listen to based on how you’re feeling (or how you would like to feel).” Yes, I do. And you probably do too. But can music improve your health – even be considered therapy? There is growing research that shows that’s possible. And it connects with that opening statement – music can relax, distract, excite, motivate, set your mood. All of those could be a helpful add-on to your other techniques for managing your life. For example, #ChronicPain. Music could help “focus on your breathing, slowing it down if you are in discomfort. It can also reduce your heart rate and might even lower blood pressure.” Sound like hype? Be in a stressful situation, put on some soothing music, and observe how the stress reduces. That will prove the point. And, consistent with my focus, music is self-managed and free—both of which make it much more plausible to use long-term. Try it. I’ve had a couple of people mention this article and their agreement with my comments since this post. Each said it was common sense. But none had given it much thought as a treatment or adaptation method for life’s difficulties (including pain). But now they have! My agitator hat fits well…

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Until next week,