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The Other Side of Pain Management: Cognitive Strategies

Did you know that more than 25 million Americans live with chronic pain? If you live with chronic pain, you know just how taxing it can be on both your mental and physical health.

You’ve likely been prescribed pain medications to treat it, but pain medications can cause harsh side effects and leave you at risk for developing an addiction. At the offices of David Wu, MD, we believe in a holistic approach to health care, and that’s why we’re excited to offer a cognitive approach to pain management.  

When is pain considered chronic? 

Pain is a response that happens when sensors send signals through your nervous system to your brain. Generally, the signals stop when the cause of the pain has been treated. 

But, if you have chronic pain, your brain will keep sending pain signals, even if an injury has healed. We diagnose chronic pain as any type of pain that lasts three months or longer

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

A type of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy aims to help people learn to change negative thoughts and behaviors and thereby change perceptions of pain and develop better coping skills. 

Proponents of cognitive behavioral therapy believe that people can regulate their emotions so pain won’t feel as intense. Thus, while actual pain levels may stay the same, patients may not feel the pain with the same intensity after undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can also change the way a patient’s brain responds to pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce the stress chemicals that often makes pain worse. This can make the body’s natural pain relief responses more effective.

What is involved in cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful for pain management, because it can teach you how to calm your mind and body. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you identify the thoughts that come up when you experience chronic pain, and then this therapy can teach you ways to challenge those thoughts and replace them with more calming feelings.

Therapy often involves a patient sitting with a therapist or counselor and identifying the negative thoughts and feelings that surround episodes of pain. These therapy sessions then help the patient work to reframe these thoughts into positive associations to reduce stress and discomfort.

Additional cognitive strategies that we may recommend include meditation, relaxation methods, and solutions for improving your sleeping patterns.

To learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy and to see if it can help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with the office of David Wu, MD, today.

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