Pain Management and Mental Health
Pain Management and Mental Health is the seventh in a series of ten articles from the book, Pain Management by Robert Hoffman
The Importance of Providing Pain Management for Mental Health
Pain is our body’s natural way of signaling to our brain that something is wrong or that we need extra care. Pain can occur due to injury, illnesses, or disorders. It can be acute, lasting for up to three to six months. However, it can also be chronic, where pain occurs persistently for a longer time.
Chronic pain is not only physically debilitating but also emotionally incapacitating. It disrupts the balance of stress hormones and neurochemicals in the brain, which can lead to mental health issues. Pain management is not only important for alleviating physical discomfort but also in mitigating the negative effects on the sufferer’s mental health.
Impact of Chronic Pain on Mental Health
Chronic pain is associated with the feeling of helplessness, and even hopelessness, leading to (or adding to) stress, anxiety, and depression. It can diminish a person’s quality of life as it can dramatically interfere with everyday activities.
People who suffer from chronic pain may not be able to function as they should at work or at home. With pain to deal with, people can find it difficult to concentrate. They may also find it difficult to socialize with other people and to keep doing their hobbies and recreational activities.
Chronic pain can result in sleep disturbances, mood changes, fatigue, and loss of appetite. As people feel limited and incapacitated, it lowers their self-esteem and magnifies their frustration. It increases the chances of developing depression compared to those who are pain-free.
Common Conditions that Can Lead to Mental Health Problems
There are many chronic pain conditions that are associated with subsequent mental health issues. Among these is arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis. It affects the hip, spine, hands, and knees, and can limit the ability to do daily tasks and participate in social activities. That makes them feel isolated and limited, which can lead to depression.
Back and neck pain, even if the pain is not severe most of the time, can also be chronic and can lead to depression. The symptoms include numbness, weakness, tingling, and radiating pain. However, back and neck pain can also be a signal of an underlying condition, which can be more serious, such as cancer.
Another common condition is migraine, which can really be debilitating. When your migraine has become chronic, the chances are that you spend too many of your days lying down, trying to sleep to numb the pain away. Because you feel disabled and restricted, it can lead to depression and anxiety.
Chronic Pain Management
Because pain is subjective and the causes of chronic pain can often be hard to determine, managing it can require a multidisciplinary approach. Aside from a physician, it may be necessary to seek guidance from a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, and/or therapist to treat the pain effectively.
The treatments may include pharmaceutical therapy, which may also include using antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications to help manage symptoms. Medications and treatments that provide relief from pain and agony will improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Behavioral therapies are also beneficial in pain management, as they help you change your pain perception and negative thinking. It influences you to create better habits and thinking patterns, so you can fully engage with your life and commit to living better.
Stress Reduction Therapies
Stress reduction therapies are another way to manage chronic pain. Persistent pain can also increase our body’s stress response, which is why you may also experience increased heart rate, sweating, and shallow breathing. However, these responses can exacerbate the pain.
With stress reduction therapies, which include biofeedback and relaxation techniques such as meditation, you can better control your body’s physical response to stress. Because of that, you will experience pain relief, elevated mood, and decreased anxiety.
Studies have shown that there is a correlation between pain and mental health issues. Chronic pain, particularly, can lead to depression and anxiety, and vice versa. Because the impact of pain is not limited to physical conditions, the best pain management involves strategies that take mental health into consideration.
Treatment is most effective when you use a combination of different therapies, which may include antidepressant medications, stress-reduction techniques, psychological counseling, and pain rehabilitation programs.
You don’t have to suffer in silence because there are many available treatment options. If you are unsure where to begin, talk to your health care provider, who can help you plan the best course of action.