Chronic Pain Series: Part 2 - Mind Body

mind body chronic pain.jpg

There is a strong connection between mental and physical states of being. Doing activities that one enjoys, spending time in nature, using art/music for healing, yoga and other types of movement, along with cognitive behavioural therapies are some of the many mind-body therapies that have been shown to reduce and help manage chronic pain. Read on below for Part 2 of the Chronic Pain Series focusing on Mind Body techniques/therapies. 

1) Getting in the “flow” state

Have you ever heard of getting into the “flow” state? This is a state when you are fully immersed in an activity feeling energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment. This allows you to surpass other sensations and become very present in the moment. Being present is a form of mindfulness, absorbing the small nuances involved in a given process. I believe that it is possible to use this “flow” state, that you might feel while cooking, being consumed by an art piece, playing/listening to music or any other activities of enjoyment as a way to manage chronic pain.

2) Nature

Patients with chronic posterior neck pain who underwent a forest bathing program ( less than 7 days) along with exercise resulted in having less trigger points than at the beginning of the study (1). Forest bathing is a Japanese activity that involves immersing oneself in nature such as going for a walk on a forest trail or park.

3) The Creative Arts: ex. Music, Art/painting

This is probably one of my favourite mind-body interventions for chronic pain. A meta-analysis was conducted to study the effects of music on chronic pain. Analysis of 97 studies showed that music had statistically significant effects on decreasing pain on 0-10 pain scales, emotional distress from pain, anesthetic use, opiod intake, non-opiod intake, heart rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and respiration rate (2). In other words, music reduced pain, emotional effects from pain, need for medication and was also good for the heart.

4)  Yoga and movement

Medical reviews show that yoga has short-term  positive effects on chronic neck pain, quality of life and mood (3). In another studies, aerobic exercise was shown to improve health-related quality of life, may slightly decrease pain intensity and improve physical function (4). We don’t need  studies to prove that “post-yoga” bliss is real! This is another reason for individuals to engage in movement that works for them, such as yoga and pilates.

5)  Cognitive behavioural techniques

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of therapy that involves uses an individual’s thought patterns to impact emotions and behavior. It is human nature to have a negative bias towards pain. Catastrophising, which is a psychological term used when an individual perceives the worst possible outcome to be most likely to occur, is highly correlated with depression and anxiety related to pain. Cognitive behavioural techniques aimed at reducing fear of pain, catastrophising and feelings of helplessness can help to reduce depression in chronic pain (5). Other studies have shown that unacceptability of emotions and emotional suppression have a higher relationship with disability and pain. Therefore, its no surprise that emotional expression, and using mindfulness techniques to accept certain sensations and emotions has shown to be helpful in patients with fibromyalgia (6).

What mind body therapies help you manage chronic pain? '

I'd love to hear what your thoughts are.