Pain awareness month has been going in the United States since 2001. It’s good to have a time when the wider world is focused on the issue of pain and I often get invited to talk to groups in this month.
I also find it very useful in my psychology and hypnotherapy for chronic / persistent pain clinics in Milton Keynes and Bedford. Not only does it raise the issue, it also helps to break the taboo about talking about chronic / persistent pain. We know that a positive attitude and good support can make a real difference to how we perceive pain. We also know that there are treatments and techniques which can help without the use of drugs.
I want to take this opportunity to set out what psychology and/or hypnotherapy for pain experts such as myself can offer you if you suffer from chronic pain.
Most of the time a multidisciplinary approach works best. A good physical check up with your GP is a must. Then find yourself an expert such as myself, who can work with mental therapies and techniques to help you. Often, it can be useful to involve your family and friends so they know what you can and cannot do and what sort of support they can give you. (You might like to read my book Managing Chronic Pain in the Family to find out more about this. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Managing-Chronic-Pain-Family-family/dp/1999867122/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=sue+peacock+pain+and+the+family&qid=1567402893&s=gateway&sr=8-3)
One thing which is very important as you begin to work with your chronic pain is to find a good routine which works for you. Professional help can mean you can do this much better. Sleep routines, exercise, rest times, good food and times for fun are all essential and all can have their place in controlling your pain. To get this right can take some patience. There may be some false starts and some things which do not work for you. You can learn from the failures with resilience and good humour if you have the right support. And within a few sessions you will have a routine which works for you. Another of my books can be a good companion to you. It is called Break the Pain Cycle in 28 Days https://www.amazon.co.uk/Break-Pain-Cycle-days-Techniques/dp/0995459975/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=sue+peacock&qid=1567403044&s=gateway&sr=8-2
While we are working on that, we can begin to use the hypnotherapeutic and related techniques which can help you to control and direct your thoughts away from your chronic pain.
I often begin by explaining how unusual chronic pain is! What do I mean by this? How we each perceive pain is largely determined by our mental state. If you are stressed, isolated and unhappy you are likely to feel your pain more. If you are relaxed and supported, you are much more likely to be able to cope and you will perceive the pain as less.
One of the ways chronic pain can ambush and undermine us is because it makes us feel powerless. It can seem like an overwhelming wave which you cannot stop.
One of the best things I can do for a client is show them that they can control the pain. You may not be able to make it go away, but it is very likely you can reduce its intensity. I often get a client to scale their pain one to ten then work with them on relaxation, positive visualisation and conceptualising the pain in a way which makes you feel able to manage the pain. It is very rare that we cannot get the pain moving down this scale.
And the good news is that all of these techniques can be learned by the client. You can practice them at home and learn that you have some control over your pain. That is a great breakthrough for anyone suffering from chronic pain.
New research showing good relationships raise the pain threshold
I spend a lot of time with my clinics talking about who supports them. I know from my own experience that where people have good relationships with family and friends, they are better able to manage their chronic pain.
There is research proving this coming out all the time. Last month, The Scandinavian Journal of Pain published some research which showed that people had a higher pain threshold when they were together with a supportive partner than when they were on their own.
“Repeatedly, talking and touching have been shown to reduce pain, but our research shows that even the passive presence of a romantic partner can reduce it and that partner empathy may buffer affective distress during pain exposure,” said Professor Stefan Duschek of UMIT, speaking on behalf of the authors.
You can read more about this in on the Science Daily website:
Big drug company fined over opioid sales
You may have heard the news that the that drugs giant Johnson & Johnson has been fined over 500 million dollars in Oklahoma for its role in creating the state’s opioid epidemic.
This is one of a series of lawsuits. The US Center of Disease Control says that opioids have been involved in over 400,000 overdose deaths since 1999. Two other big drug companies have already been fined.
An interesting point in the latest case is that the company played down just how addictive these drugs are and encouraged doctors to overprescribe.
One of the claims the company made was that pain is undertreated and that opioids were effective for treating long term pain. The Food and Drug Administration (the body which oversees drug prescription in the United States) had warned Johnson & Johnson about its claims that the drug was not addictive. It is heartening to see that such a powerful body understands the dangers of these drugs.
The judge noted that the company spent ‘substantial amounts of money’ approaching doctors and other health professions with the message that their opioids were safe and non-addictive.
My own experience as a pain therapist is that they are not. People do become addicted and need higher and higher doses to get the same effect. I would agree that chronic pain is undertreated, and it could be that pushing this message did get doctors to prescribe more.
However, I would look at it for a different point of view, chronic pain is undertreated because it is not well understood.
Once we start to look at the relationship between belief, mental attitude and behaviours and pain and work to change those we can achieve results as good as the drug route and without the risk.
I hope that in the UK we are able to get across the message that there is another safer, healthier route to control pain.
The judge overseeing the case said the money would be used to help people who had become addicted to opioids.
That’s all from me this month. I will be back on the blog next month talking about how to prepare to manage your chronic pain throughout autumn and into winter.
If you need help to manage your chronic pain, then do contact me and let’s get working on effective pain control.