For the 100 million or so Americans living with chronic pain, simply getting through a single day can be challenging. While there are many possible physical causes of chronic pain, there are also psychological factors that can affect how recurring pain is perceived. This is why a chronic pain specialist may suggest complementing treatments that typically include pain and anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy with emotional therapies.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is to change the way you think about your chronic pain. For instance, you might find yourself avoiding previously enjoyable activities because of constant fears of experiencing pain. This type of emotional therapy involves learning how to face your fears so you can develop a healthier perspective and be more productive with the actions you take on a daily basis.
Psychotherapy (“Talk Therapy”)
The purpose of psychotherapy is to talk about your feelings with a licensed psychologist or therapist. It’s different from CBT in that sessions are geared towards helping you develop a better understanding of yourself, not just your chronic pain. Ultimately, these self-insights can be applied to how you deal with recurring discomfort.
What art therapy does is get you to express and explore your feelings about your chronic pain and related issues through art. This can include painting, sculpting, or even things like scrapbooking and arts and crafts projects. Studies suggest related therapies involving music and the visual arts may also ease issues with depression and anxiety that can affect pain perception.
With pet therapy, your mental focus is shifted to your interactions with a pet that you find comforting. There are numerous stories about people with chronic pain reporting noticeable improvements when regularly interacting with dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, and other animals. Animal-assisted therapy has been used for patients with many different chronic pain sources, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, and spine-related conditions.
Derived from an ancient Buddhist practice, mindful mediation is a type of therapy designed to get you to focus on the present. In other words, your past experiences with chronic pain shouldn’t be used as your basis for how you think about your pain right now. It’s done by creating a relaxing and calming environment, breathing deeply, maintaining proper posture, and shifting your mental focus.
There is no magic formula for managing chronic pain. Still, finding the right balance between physical and emotional care may make it easier to reach a point where can get back to focusing on the important things in your life. It can also be helpful to keep a pain journal to write down your experiences and feelings. Details such as what activities or movements seem to trigger upticks in discomfort can also help a chronic pain specialist fine-tune your treatment plan.