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Managing Chronic Pain: Therapies for Mind and Body

Group of three people sitting and talking.Both the brain and the body are involved in the pain response. The brain reads and interprets the pain signals from the body. This means that your mind has some control over how pain signals are processed. Mind-body therapies may help change how your brain reads pain signals. Talk to your healthcare provider about trying any of the therapies listed below.

Both the brain and the body are involved in the pain response. The body is constantly sending signals to the brain and the brain is constantly sending signals to the body. The brain gets pain signals from the body. This means that your mind has is making sense of what these pain signals mean. The mind is taking in lots of information all the time, and with training can start to understand chronic pain signals in a different way. Mind-body therapies may help change how your brain "reads" pain signals. This is a way to work with signals that are constantly going on in the body. It can be a very effective method to use with chronic pain. Talk with your healthcare provider about trying 1 or more of the therapies listed below. 

Therapies you can learn to do (active therapies)

  • Yoga is a physical meditation that can relax your body and mind. It's also a good way to become more flexible. A big part of yoga is the breath. You will learn how the breath and body work together. This can be helpful for managing pain. It is also something you can practice on your own.

  • Relaxation, visualization, and meditation are methods for relaxing muscles and learning how to focus in a certain way. This can lessen the feeling of pain or help you work through it. This is an effective skill that helps a lot with chronic pain. It is something you can learn to do without relying on someone else.

  • Coping skills are ways of feeling more in control. These use humor, distraction, or positive thinking to put the pain in its place. Chronic pain is stressful. Stress management can be helpful. There are many coping tools you can put in your toolbox.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is a method where you can work with a therapist to learn how thoughts, feelings and behaviors all play a role in your pain. This has been studied a lot, and there is evidence to show it is effective in pain management.

  • Biofeedback is an active way for you to take control of your pain and the way you feel on an ongoing basis. With this tool you can "overhear" the signals going between your brain and body. You can then learn to work with them in a way to help your pain.

  • Self-hypnosis is a way to train your mind to change your perception of pain. It combines relaxation and visualization. It is a way to work with your pain in a different way.

The value you get from these therapies will depend on how much they become a part of your daily life. Like any other skill, these all become easier with practice.

Counseling and support groups

  • Chronic pain support groups can help you feel less isolated. They can also give you tips for coping with pain. It is also a place you can go to see you are not alone. Sometimes it is hard with chronic pain because you feel like nobody understands you. Support groups can be a place to be understood.

  • Support groups for an underlying condition can help you learn more about managing that condition and the pain that it causes. They can help you live better with the pain.

  • Individual counseling can help you learn coping skills and techniques such as visualization and relaxation. There are many behavioral tools that can be learned in counseling that will help you manage pain. Counseling can also help with mood problems. Depression, anxiety, irritability and anger are all very common with chronic pain. Counselors can help with this. They can also help you get better sleep. Working with a counselor does not mean that you're mentally ill.

Therapies done to you (passive therapies)

  • Massage helps you relax. It may also help relieve some kinds of muscle and joint pain.

  • Acupuncture and acupressure are treatments in which small needles or pressure is applied to certain sites on the body. They may stimulate the body's natural pain-control system.

  • Chiropractic is a treatment based on manipulation of the spine. It may help with some kinds of back pain.

  • Certain vitamins or herbs may help with some conditions that cause chronic pain. But they may interact with your medicines, so check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before you try them.

It is important to remember that none of these therapies will completely eliminate your pain. The best approach is using several different therapies that work for you, in combination with support from others and working with your healthcare provider. It is possible to live well with chronic pain, and it is best to learn how to do this with some help from others.  

VA YouTube Yoga Videos for Veterans

Join a yoga class for Veterans right from your living room. Led by a physical therapist, this 60 minute class is broken up into 5 smaller videos. Learn how to do yoga poses, step-by-step. It’s done slowly so anyone can follow along. The poses are also taught in a seated position if it’s hard for you to get down on the floor.

These videos are located on the VA’s very own YouTube channel. Take your first yoga class today.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 6/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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