Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Hypnosis For Pain Management
Pain demands our attention. If you did not experience pain, you might seriously hurt yourself without knowing it, or you might have a medical condition that needs treatment and not realize there is a problem. Pain may be sharp or dull, may come and go or it may be constant. Regardless, nobody welcomes pain and anyone in pain will do almost anything to get rid of it.
There is acute pain and there is chronic pain and it is important to distinguish between the two. Acute pain is caused by a specific disease or injury and serves a useful purpose. Chronic pain, in contrast, is pain that persists after the normal time of healing, or persistent pain for which no medical cause can be identified.
Pain is processed in the brain and activates certain thoughts, memories and emotions. These thoughts, memories and emotions can have a significant impact upon the body’s experience of pain.
There is a direct connection between our beliefs and thoughts and the functioning of our bodies. Self-defeating thoughts and beliefs can actually intensify pain. Thoughts such as “What’s the use, I have tried everything and nothing works,” work to reinforce the pain cycle. This type of negative thinking has been shown to create very real physical chemical changes that further inhibits the body’s ability to manage pain.
The human body responds to pain the same way it responds to other dangers, by increasing the reactivity of the body. This can lead to increased muscle tension, increased heart and blood pressure, increased gastrointestinal reactivity and other classic symptoms often associated with anxiety. With chronic pain comes the tendency to worry and catastrophize about the pain. This can lead to avoidance behaviors, such as over guarding, inactivity, and not engaging in activities that might increase the pain. These behaviors lead to a pre-occupation with pain which in turn leads to more pain.
A person’s thoughts and behaviors affect their experience of pain. Both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and clinical hypnosis have proven to be extremely effective in helping people manage chronic pain. Hypnosis and CBT are different yet very complimentary approaches to pain management. Both have the goals of changing thoughts, improving coping skills, modifying emotional states and increasing physical comfort.
Hypnosis and CBT techniques used for pain management include training in numerous pain coping strategies such as progressive relaxation and visual imaging to help decrease muscle tension, reduce emotional distress, and divert attention away from the pain. Cognitive restructuring helps people identify their thoughts, evaluate the thoughts for distortions and then restructure those thoughts to eliminate the distortions and create more realistic thoughts about the pain. Clinical hypnosis and CBT techniques can enhance the efficacy of other treatments for pain and should be used as part of a collaborative, integrative approach for pain management.
Pain may be treated in a variety of ways depending upon its severity. Many times a multidisciplinary approach that includes a team of healthcare specialists is needed.