Using Cognitive Strategies to Relieve Pain

We all know aches and pains are tough, but when you experience pain that doesn’t go away, it can be debilitating. Struggling through work and missing out on the things that matter most is no way to live. At his clinic in Torrance, California, Dr. David Wu offers patients a comprehensive approach to alleviating pain designed to enhance your quality of life and improve your overall wellbeing.

The mind-body connection

Your psychological state profoundly influences how you experience pain. Make no mistake, your pain is real, but your mind can amplify your perception of it. Stress, fear, and sadness are all emotions that can make the way you experience pain feel even worse.

Think of it this way: When you’re thinking stressful thoughts or feeling anxious, your body sends out all types of stress signals. Your heart beats faster and your brain tells your body to release the stress hormone cortisol -- and these physiological changes heighten your pain.

Pain is more than physical

Knowing that pain isn’t just a sensory experience is the key to understanding why cognitive strategies alleviate chronic pain. On a physical level, pain is your body’s response to a stimulus. Usually the body is reacting to some sort of tissue damage.

When there’s damage to the body, your pain receptors send signals to your nerve fibers, which travel up your spinal cord and brainstem to the brain. The nerve fibers tell your brain to register the signal as pain, and that’s when you feel a pain sensation.

The goal of cognitive strategies for people with chronic pain is to control your mind in such a way that you disrupt the cascade of pain signals making their way to your brain. With some practice, you’d be surprised how much relief you can get from these simple techniques.

Depending on your individual situation, Dr. Wu may use this as a standalone treatment. However, patients find greater relief when combining cognitive strategies with other effective treatments, such as steroid injections and radiofrequency therapy.

The cognitive approach

You can implement various cognitive strategies to feel better and get a leg up on chronic pain. The brain is complex and often thought of as a computer, but unlike a computer, your mind can only focus on one thing at a time.

It’s a good thing, too, because it means you can use the distraction technique to reduce pain. A common scenario for chronic pain sufferers is that pain hits, and you tend to focus on the pain. You may begin to think negative thoughts about how pain is impacting your life.

The problem is, focusing on the pain makes it worse. Distraction is a cognitive strategy that teaches you shift your focus to something else when you feel the pain coming on. It’s a simple, yet effective, way to disrupt the cascade of thoughts that amplify pain signals hitching a ride to your brain. Before you know it, you’ll feel calmer and your perception of pain will decrease.

Benefits of cognitive therapy for pain

Patients with chronic pain experience the following benefits from adding cognitive strategies to their arsenal:

Pain medications aren’t the only way to treat chronic pain. While they may provide an effective short-term solution, various drug-free approaches to managing pain can provide long-term results that are just as effective.

Request an appointment with Dr. Wu today, so you can stop pain from controlling your life once and for all.

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