An interesting new approach to effective pain relief that is gathering steam in the medical world is that of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) , a form of talking therapy that can help you identify and create the necessary skills and behaviors necessary to change negative thoughts and detrimental patterns of behaving.
According to CBT, the underlying theory is that individuals create and manipulate their own experiences, including pain; outside events are not responsible.
By challenging and changing these negative thinking processes and negative behaviors, you can change your awareness of things such as pain and develop more effective coping skills. The level of pain may actually stay the same, but you can learn how to not perceive it.
“The perception of pain is in your brain, so you can affect physical pain by addressing thoughts and behaviors that fuel it,” according to board certified psychiatrist and senior medical director for OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions, Joseph Hullett, MD.
But how exactly can CBT work for you? First of all, it will alter the way you think about your pain. Hullett explains: “CBT can change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to pain, improve coping strategies, and put the discomfort in a better context.” In other words, you will see how the pain can interfere less with your quality of life, making day-to-day tasks much easier.
Secondly, and most importantly, CBT can actually change how your brain works, targeting your brain’s physical response, which at times can intensify pain rather than alleviate it. Pain and stress are interrelated, with stress affecting the brain’s pain control chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. Hullett states that “CBT reduces the arousal that impacts these chemicals.” In the end, this means that CBT can empower your body’s natural pain relief mechanisms.
For chronic pain relief, CBT is usually used alongside other pain management therapies; but so far, out of most “alternative” pain relief methods, CBT is the one that is showing the most promise. Hullet states in a WebMD article written by Elizabeth Shimer Bowers: “In control group studies, CBT is almost always as least as good as or better than other treatments.”
However, CBT is not easy and it is not a passive method of pain relief. CBT involves:
- The need for a problem-solving attitude
- A degree of homework: treatment does not only involve sessions with a therapist; frequent journaling throughout the day, every day is required to keep track of emotions and thoughts that are experienced while pain is felt. The journaling will be discussed during formal sessions
- Life skills training. The skills you learn to cope with pain should be used in other aspects of your life
- Self-help. Therapists may not be available in your area, but there is plenty of literature available to get you started.
Pain relief sessions can last between 45 minutes to two hours, take place once a week and can be either individual or group therapy situations. 8 to 24 visits will be necessary, and further sessions may be scheduled to ensure that you’re on the right track with your skills development.
CBT is a very effective mind-body pain relief therapy, and if a person is looking for effective pain relief, it looks like talking away the pain could possibly be an avenue worth investigating.