Therapy for Chronic Pain
Do you suffer from physical pain that will not go away? Have medical treatments and procedures not really helped?
Do you have chronic back pain, neck pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, tendonitis, or irritable bowel symptoms? Perhaps you have visited medical doctors who have not been able to adequately treat or even diagnose your pain. Maybe you’re starting to feel frustrated and hopeless, as if you may never be pain-free again.
It is possible that your pain may be linked to your emotions. Not all physical pain is caused by structural damage or disease. Physical pain can be brought on or intensified by emotions and past traumas. Stress, anxiety, depression, fear and other feelings can trigger physical changes in the body. In fact, our brains universally recreate real physical symptoms in our bodies on a regular basis. Everyone experiences emotionally-triggered physiological changes at times. Have you ever blushed when feeling embarrassed or gotten sweaty palms when feeling nervous? Do you experience “butterflies” or tightness in your stomach when you are feeling anxious? These physiological sensations are caused by emotions. That is, they are mind-body sensations, initiated by the nervous system in response to a feeling.
Why does some pain become chronic?
Sometimes mind-body symptoms can become chronic. This generally occurs when feelings of stress, negative emotions, or unresolved trauma persist over time, causing the body to react with persistent physical symptoms. The physical symptoms actually can even get bigger with chronic negative emotions. In a sense, the signals from the brain and nervous system can get louder. The feelings of fear around these symptoms also can make these symptoms worse or more persistent.
This type of chronic pain, also known as TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome / Mind Body Syndrome), PPD (Psychophysiologic Disorder) or neuroplastic pain was first described by John Sarno, MD in his book Healing Back Pain. These pain symptoms manifest in many different ways, from migraine headaches and back pain to gastrointestinal issues, tendonitis and more.
How do I know if emotions are driving my pain?
When assessing what may be causing or adding to your chronic pain, it is important to consult with a doctor and rule out a medical condition. If you have already done so or if you have seen doctors who have been unable to help you, then it is quite possible that your pain is mind-body, or emotionally-caused. From here, you can begin to explore the relationship between your pain and feelings.
- Does your pain increase when your stress, anxiety or depression increases?
- Do you find that your pain is inconsistent? Does it seem to go away when you are distracted? Does it get worse when you worry about it?
- Have you experienced other types of stress-induced aches and pain, such as tension headaches, TMJ, or skin irritations?
- Do you tend to push your emotions away?
How can therapy help with my pain?
With therapy, you can begin to feel better, so that you can live the life you want. We will explore what feelings or experiences (past or present) may be triggering your physical symptoms, and work together to heal those issues. We also will understand your own unique experience of pain—how your pain manifests and how your reaction to or relationship with your pain or physical symptoms can impact its intensity.
I will help you to think differently about your pain. Sometimes just thinking about your pain from a more psychological perspective or decreasing fear can help reduce symptoms. I also will help you learn new tools, including somatic tracking, to balance your nervous system and decrease your body’s tendency to manifest physiological symptoms. I also encourage the use of meditation and mindfulness to support your healing process.
I’m not sure . . . I have more questions.
If my pain is caused by my emotions, does that mean it is all “in my head”?
Absolutely not. The pain you feel is real. With TMS or PPD, your nervous system produces real physical pain as a response to unresolved emotional stress. So, the cause of your pain may be emotional but the pain is 100% physical.
Why is therapy better than more traditional types of pain management?
More traditional forms of pain management, including physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, massage, surgery and medication may temporarily reduce or relieve your pain. In this way, they can be helpful. However, these treatments do not resolve the underlying causes of your pain. Without such resolution, your pain may continue to impact your life in frustrating and debilitating ways.
Won’t therapy be expensive and take a really long time?
How long have you been living with your pain? How much time, money and energy have you put toward treatments that have not helped, at least not completely? Therapy does not have to be a costly, long-term investment. Treatment length for pain can vary, and often, can be more short-term that traditional psychotherapy, depending upon the underlying causes. Also, it is an investment in a long-term solution to your pain.