Latest issue The Psychological Science of the Public Good Examine psychological interventions for the treatment of chronic pain, including the gap between the evidence of the effectiveness of several psychological interventions and their availability and use in treatment.
Pain is the body’s way of reminding the brain to pay attention to injuries and illnesses. Without a strong pain response, physical trauma may be ignored and treated. However, some people experience chronic pain that lasts for a long time after the injury has healed or there is no easily identifiable cause.
Unfortunately, the use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs to treat chronic pain has its own health risks, including adverse side effects and addiction.In the latest issue The Psychological Science of the Public Good (PSPI), a team of researchers explored how psychological interventions can be part of a comprehensive plan to manage chronic pain while reducing the need for surgery and potentially dangerous drugs.
“There are several effective non-pharmacological treatments for chronic pain, and psychotherapy is the most effective of them,” said Mary Driscoll, a Yale University researcher and lead author of the main article on the issue. “People involved in psychotherapy can expect to experience a significant reduction in pain itself and an improvement in physical function and emotional health.”
In many cases, the cause of chronic pain is unclear, and traditional medical interventions such as painkillers and surgery may hardly alleviate or worsen the condition. People with chronic pain often report dissatisfaction with the healthcare system and medical insurance, which are often dismissive or fail to successfully resolve their complaints.
Psychotherapy can reduce the need for drugs, surgery, and other invasive treatments that can be expensive, ineffective, or even dangerous. Studies have shown that the effects of psychotherapy can last a lifetime.
“People with pain should feel able to choose the most attractive psychotherapy,” Driscoll said. “Once they do, finding a psychotherapist who can provide this kind of care and establish a meaningful connection with them will be a key factor in reaping the benefits.”
Studies have shown that psychological factors affect the onset, severity and duration of chronic pain. For these reasons, several psychological interventions have been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain.
In the article, Driscoll and her colleagues describe the most widely studied interventions in the pain community, including:
- Supportive psychotherapy, emphasizing unconditional acceptance and empathy understanding
- Relaxation training, or use breathing, muscle relaxation and visual images to counteract the body’s stress response
- Biofeedback, including monitoring the patient’s physiological responses to stress and pain (such as increased heart rate, muscle tension), and teaching them how to down-regulate these responses
- Hypnosis by a well-trained clinician, which may cause changes in pain management, expectations, or perception, combined with relaxation training
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, in which patients learn to reconstruct the maladaptive thoughts about pain that cause pain; change unhelpful behaviors, such as isolation and inactivity; and develop useful behavioral coping strategies (for example, relaxation)
- Mindfulness-based interventions help to separate physical pain from emotional pain by increasing awareness of body, breathing, and activity
- Psychologically informed physical therapy, combining physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy
this PSPI The report also covers topics such as integrated pain care or medical, psychological and social health care; the future of pain treatment; and improving the usability and integration of pain management strategies.
Materials provided Psychological Science Association. Note: The content can be edited according to style and length.