Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Pain
Chronic pain is a huge problem, experienced by approximately 30% of the population. It is defined as pain that does not go away as expected. Whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is different and may persist for months or longer.
Chronic pain can cause feelings of discomfort, soreness, tightness, or stiffness, and experiences of pain such as shooting, burning, or aching.
Chronic pain commonly leads to other problems, such as:
• anxiety, fears and catastrophizing
• fatigue, which can cause a loss of motivation
• sleeping problems, followed by withdrawal from activities due to an increased need to rest
• grief and loss due to new limitations caused by the pain
• depression (with bad or low mood)
• loneliness and isolation
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for chronic pain is now recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). The Mayo Clinic says that every progressive pain treatment should include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for chronic pain is a form of counseling that teaches people how to change negative thoughts and behaviors, change their awareness of pain, and develop better coping skills.
The perception of pain is in your brain so working with a neuroscience-based therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can directly reduce physical pain by addressing thoughts and behaviors that fuel it.
According to WebMD.com, among the various methods of pain control,
CBT is often one of the most effective:
“In control group studies, CBT is almost always at least as good as, or better than, other treatments…Plus, CBT has far fewer risks and side effects than medications or surgery.”
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps provide pain relief in several ways:
1. CBT changes the way you view your pain, including thoughts,
emotions, and behaviors related to pain.
2. CBT increases your control over your mental and emotional states, which have a direct effect on pain levels.
3. CBT improves coping strategies, which gives you a greater sense of control, and increased time periods of pain relief.
4. CBT can also change the chemical response in the brain that makes pain worse. Pain causes anxiety, and anxiety creates a chemical reaction in the brain which is inflammatory. Anxiety treatment with CBT reduces anxiety.
5. CBT reduces the sense of helplessness that often comes with chronic pain, while increasing problem-solving and action-taking. I always give “homework” to help clients take action, make changes, and make the most of the work we do together in our sessions.
What Will I Learn with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will be customized for you! Everyone’s situation is unique but here is an idea of the sorts of things that might be included:
• Attention: Learn how to shift your focus or distract from pain. Research shows when attention is distracted from pain then the pain is actually experienced as less intense.
• Anxiety: Learn how to manage anxiety about the pain itself, and about other things in your life. Reduce catastrophizing and fight or flight responses in your brain. Research shows that anxiety treatment that resolves the root cause of anxiety actually changes brain chemistry and reduces pain.
• Control: Learn that there are things about the pain that are actually in your control. Research shows pain intensity is reduced when pain is perceived to be controllable.
• Interpretation: Learn more accurate ways to monitor and interpret pain sensations. Research shows that the more you try to monitor pain, the more pain you experience.
• Negative feelings toward pain: Learn how to better manage emotions. Research shows that anger, sadness, and fear become a loop: pain creates those emotions but those emotions also increase pain.
• Negative thoughts: Learn how to change automatic negative thoughts and change cognitive distortions common with chronic pain. Research shows that changing these kinds of thoughts can provide as much (or more!) pain relief as medication.
• Behaviors: Learn which behaviors increase and decrease pain. Research shows coping behaviors have a big impact on pain intensity and functional abilities.
• Body Relaxation and Calming: Build a custom toolbox of techniques such as mindfulness, goal setting, breathwork, muscle relaxation, sleep improvement, imagery, meditation, neurofeedback and more. Research shows the effectiveness of such tools in calming the nervous system and interrupting pain signals in the brain.
I’d be honored to help you on your healing journey. Give me a call and let’s see how I can help.