Chronic pain related disorders
Pain is common
Majority of clinic visits in to a general physician are for longstanding headache, backaches, joint pains and chest discomfort; pain anywhere in the body. Pain is a neurological symptom that has medical causes and demands specific medical treatment. Many varieties of arthritis, degenerative illnesses, migraine, muscle spasms; all are associated with longstanding pain. However any pain that lasts more than 3 months certainly develops psychological contributions. Such pain is medically understood as chronic pain.
Facts about pain
A very interesting fact about pain (which also makes it complicated) is that all physicians feel that patients tend to exaggerate complaints of pain. This has a strong subjective emotional component. Any pain can never completely somatic or psychic, it is always psychosomatic. A soldier on the battlefield does not feel the pain of 5 bullets in his abdomen until the time he has reached the hospital bed. Then the pain is excruciating, unbearable and unreal (rightly so). Nerve fibres that carry pain signals to the brain are filtered through emotional centres. That is how emotions modulate pain. When one is happy, pain of arthritis doesn’t hurt much.
Empirically it has been observed that specific areas of the body have symbolic correlations with pain that arises in them. A housewife, who is feeling bogged down by her daily routine, several hours of household work, pressures from the family, worries about the children and financial stressors; commonly develops a chronic headache. This pain is localized to the area above the forehead and is expressed a constant heaviness (like all the pressures of the world thrown on her head). Likewise a 19 year old boy who has just broken up with his girlfriend, feels a constant pressure and tightness in his chest, giving him restlessness, fear of a heart problem; and chest pain. His heart is truly ‘broken’ and gives him unexplained pain. The office executive working for 11 hours on his seat, bearing the load of his family responsibility may feel over stressed and develops a chronic backache. He is the beast of burden who has the world’s load on his back that unquestionably gives him pain.
Pain and Emotion
Pain signals are influenced by emotions and thoughts, which in turn influence neurological transmission and alter the pain experience. Internal analgesics in the body like endorphins are released in times of pleasure and happiness. That explains why one feels less pain when one is happy. The cycle is true in reverse too. Sadness accentuates physical perception of pain while pain precipitates depression.
Pain and psychopathology
Any chronic pain condition triggers irritability, anger, frustration and resentment. It leads to a complete change in one’s outlook towards things. Because it is enduring and constant, it ends up becomes nagging and irksome. The person in pain becomes ‘painful’ to have around. The bitterness of the pain spills into the individual’s personality and behavior. Life was not intended to be painful (literally or metaphorically). Psychogenic pain and physical discomfort together create a vicious cycle of suffering. The loop needs to be broken.
Pain is agonizing and ought to be treated delicately. Medications can control inflammation, however pain pathways are pretty complex and medications fail to act in many of these. Yoga or meditation for instance can release endorphins that block the pain signals in the spinal pathway. Scientific evidence has endorsed this repeatedly. At MINDFRAMES we adopt psychotherapy techniques to manage chronic pain and the negative emotional experience associated with it. Systematic relaxation techniques and biofeedback help in easing muscle tension and lactate build-up that is responsible for accentuating pain. One needs to learn how to alleviate one’s own pain a cope with it. Life ought to be pain free.