One of the most important steps in learning to manage chronic back pain may be addressing your psychological response to chronic pain. According to new research from Dr. Toby Newton-John, an Australian Clinical Psychologist who specializes in chronic pain (and yes, he is Olivia Newton-John’s brother, just to get that out of the way), understanding the psychological aspects of chronic pain as early as possible in its treatment may help patients’ prognoses. With any type of chronic pain issue, patients often find themselves in the position of having to navigate treating the root problem, treating the symptom, and learning to live with the symptoms. A treatment approach that incorporates cognition can be especially beneficial in cases where the cause of the pain is not evident or relief has not been found.
Many patients who come to the Spine Institute Northwest seeking help for chronic pain have already figured out certain mechanisms for coping with the pain. However, even when individuals are being proactive about finding coping strategies, it can be very easy to fall into bad patterns that may actually be exacerbating the pain problem without the patient realizing it. For this reason, it is especially important to intervene early in the diagnosis to help individuals identify what activities are exacerbating their pain and what kinds of response mechanisms are most appropriate based on the particular situation. Taking a holistic approach to look at the patient as a whole person, not a set of symptoms, is key to coming up with a treatment plan.
Neuroplasticity is the degree to which your brain’s neural pathways can adjust based on changes made to your environment, activities, habits, and so on. By taking active measures to manage chronic pain, you can affect your neuroplasticity to help keep your pain from taking over your life. Studies suggest that intervention should occur when chronic pain has been experienced for at least three months, the threshold at which pain is no longer considered temporary.
Simply getting a diagnosis can be a huge relief: Understanding the physical cause of their pain, can help reduce the patient’s feelings that they are not in control of their body or that others do not believe they are genuinely in pain. Back pain experts like the doctors at the Spine Institute Northwest can also help by guiding patients through what they can expect with their pain issue, which can help put it in perspective. Chronic pain can too often lead to depression, and working with a doctor like Solomon Kamson who takes an active interest in your wellbeing can help defeat this cycle.
Dr. Newton-John’s research found that medical intervention for chronic pain that also provided patients with emotional and personal support gave major benefits. Patients were able to feel a stronger sense of control over their lives, and were better able to deal with flare-ups. It also has ripple effects, as being able to help close friends or family members understand their treatment improved patients’ prognoses and ability to stick with pain management plans.
If you are burdened with chronic pain, we’re here to listen. Please call the Spine Institute Northwest today at 206-496-0630, or upload your MRI to get started.