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Chronic pain: the role of Mindfulness and Biofeedback in the treatment of persistent pain

Chronic pain: the role of Mindfulness and Biofeedback in the treatment of persistent pain

May 26, 2022

Feeling pain is normal and part of our immune system . The body uses pain as an alarm signal, an alert that tells us something is not going well and that for some reason we are in danger. However, normally this feeling goes away as soon as the threat disappears.

What happens when the pain never goes away and is part of the life of the individual? Then we are facing a problem of chronic pain .

What is chronic pain?

If you do not completely know what chronic pain is, you can start by consulting this video about its main characteristics:

Who suffers chronic pain?

According to a study by Oye Gureje and his collaborators, approximately 23% of people suffer chronic pain . This rate increases with age, affecting up to one third of the elderly population. In addition, the World Health Organization recognizes that it is a highly disabling problem in all its forms: back pain, arthritis, headache, fibromyalgia, among many others.

The pain that accompanies these problems is not always the same: there will be days when the person who suffers will only feel discomfort - this being a good day - and others in which the pain will be so intense that they will not be able to move out of the chair.

Episodes of pain are impossible to avoid; one must learn to live with them and find a way to handle them as much as possible. The best way to do this is through stress management.

Retrieving control

Thanks to a study by Dr. Kimberly T. Sibille, we know that people with chronic pain show higher levels of stress than other people, both at a biochemical and psychological level. In addition, when we are subjected to stress our perception of pain is increased. Thus, people with pain enter a vicious circle in which, faced with a stressful event, they feel more pain, thus generating more stress and escalating their suffering.

The role of the psychologist is to break this circle so that the patient does not live these episodes in such a painful way and improve their quality of life. The key to pain management lies in the assessment of control, or the belief that one has the resources to manage pain.

How can we get someone to learn to control chronic pain? In this sense, both the biofeedback As the Mindfulness .

Techniques to control chronic pain: Biofeedback

Broadly speaking, the basic component of training in biofeedback is to learn to control various biological functions using the information from these functions.

In chronic pain, a electromyography . A very thin needle electrode is inserted through the skin into the muscle. The electrode on the needle detects the electrical activity released by the muscles. This activity appears on a nearby monitor and can be heard through a speaker. Thus, the patient is able to identify pain signals, control muscle tension to achieve relaxation and thus reduce the pain experience, etc.

The philosophy of Mindfulness

The Mindfulness philosophy it is based mainly on living the present, on being attentive to what happens without judging or interpreting. In other words, it is based on accepting reality as it is. In fact, it is sometimes considered as a technique of other therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy.

We invite you to discover the psychological benefits of Mindfulness by consulting these articles:

"What is Mindfulness ?: the 7 answers to your questions"

"Mindfulness: 8 psychological benefits of mindfulness"

The application of the same in patients with chronic pain is based on the idea that it can help them accept the pain and therefore reduce avoidance , and to have more control over their attentional processes so linked to the perception of pain. In fact, when assessing Mindfulness as a capacity or personality trait correlates with pain. People who score higher in Mindfulness feel less pain, they present a higher quality of life and suffer less negative emotions.

There are many other techniques such as relaxation for problems such as headaches or migraines, emotional writing to make sense of the experience, or training the person to fix their attention in another place other than their pain during the episodes. Each patient will benefit from a different type of intervention depending on their characteristics and their episodes.

This shows that if you suffer some chronic pain, however crippling it may be, you can learn to manage it and live with it. Quoting Buddha Gautama: "Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional"

Bibliographic references:

  • Gureje, O., Simon, G. E. and Von Korff, M. (2001). A cross-national study of the persistent pain in primary care course. Pain, 92, 195-200. doi: 10.1016 / S0304-3959 (00) 00483-8
  • McCracken, L. M. and Velleman, S. C. (2010). Psychological flexibility in adults with chronic pain: a study of acceptance, mindfulness, and values-based action in primary care. Pain, 148,141-147.
  • Sibille, K. T., Langaee, T., Burkley, B., Gong, Y., Glover, T. L., King, C., ... Fillingim, R. B. (2012). Chronic pain, perceived stress, and cellular aging: an exploratory study. Mol Pain, 8:12.
  • Van Uum, S.M., Sauv√©, B., Fraser, L.a, Morley-Forster, P., Paul, T.L. and Koren, G. (2008). Elevated content of cortisol in hair of patients with severe chronic pain: a novel biomarker for stress. Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 11, 483-488. doi: 10.1080 / 10253890801887388

Managing chronic pain without drugs (May 2022).

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