Should Pain Management Be Treated With The Same BioPsychoSocial Approach As Addiction?

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People who live with chronic pain, chronic back pain, and lower back pain, don’t like hearing they are addicted to their pain. Many holistic healers who follow the philosophy of Eastern traditions believe that is true. Bring this up with pain management doctors and receive a stirred response. Pain is pain, many will argue, which needs to be treated as pain. Treating pain in chronic pain patients has been an especially sensitive topic of conversation in the midst of the opioid epidemic spreading throughout America. Most pain management uses opioid prescription painkillers, which are highly addictive. Other doctors feel that pain is not an isolated physical event. According to more holistic perspectives, pain can be caused by emotions, stress, events in the past, and environment. By treating the body, mind, and soul holistically, pain can be managed in a more effective way.

Curiously, patients like to hold onto their pain. One would think differently. It happens in a way similar to how an alcoholic both has to and chooses to hold onto their alcoholism. Despite immense suffering and negative consequences, there is some payoff to their pain. Part of the pain lives in the chemical dependency of the brain. Yet, some of that chemical dependency in the brain, which centers on pleasure and reward, is caused by an emotional as well as spiritual need to avoid pain. Emotional pain and spiritual pain can cause as much pain as real physical pain. Brain imaging studies have found that the brain reacts to emotional and social pain in an almost identical fashion to physical pain. For pain management patients, that’s a considerable finding. reported on a progressive talk given at a recent pain management conference touching on the subject. “Studies have shown that pain management programs rooted in [the biopsychosocial] approach…led to reduced pain, increased activity, and improved daily functioning in patients with chronic pain.” Biopsychosocial programs often include cognitive behavioral therapy, physical exercise, and medication management. The article also lists the use of other treatment modalities including:

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: a form of CBT, ACT helps patients live mindfully through acceptance and committed action. Both ACT and CBT “have been found to improve mood, function, and pain,” according to the article.
  • Functional Restoration: including occupational therapies and physical therapies.
  • Social Support: group therapy and support groups have been found helpful in alleviating symptoms which could be tied to the stress of isolation.
  • Graded Motor Imagery: various exercises which increase neuroplasticity.

In addition to these methods, many doctors have found that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness based stress reduction are all helpful in reducing pain and improving quality of life.

If you are struggling with pain management and looking for a new, integrative approach to healing, call Avalon Malibu today. We offer residential treatment programs and other level of care to help you heal mind, body, and spirit. Our primary mental health facility works with pain management patients who need to confront their pain. For a confidential assessment and more information, call 1 888-958-7511.

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