Treating Chronic Pain and Depression: A "Whole-Life" Approach continued...
The key is to break this cycle. "We now know that gentle, regular physical activity is a crucial part of managing chronic pain," says Thorn. Everyone with chronic pain can and should do some kind of exercise. Consult with a physician to design an exercise plan that's safe and effective for you.
Mental and Spiritual Health
Chronic pain affects your ability to live, work, and play the way you're used to. This can change how you see yourself -- sometimes for the worse.
"When somebody begins to take on the identity of a 'disabled chronic pain patient,' there is a real concern that they have sunk into the pain and become a victim," says Thorn.
Fighting this process is a critical aspect of treatment. "People with chronic pain end up sitting around," which leads to feeling passive, says Feinberg. "The best thing is for people to get busy, take control."
Working with a health care provider who refuses to see you as a helpless victim is part of the formula for success. The goal is to replace the victim identity with one of a "well person with pain," according to Thorn.
Treating Chronic Pain and Depression: Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain
Is there such a thing as "mind over matter"? Can you "think" your way out of feeling pain?
It may be hard to believe, but research clearly shows that for ordinary people, certain kinds of mental training truly improve chronic pain.
One approach is cognitive therapy. In cognitive therapy, a person learns to notice the negative "automatic thoughts" that surround the experience of chronic pain. These thoughts are often distortions of reality. Cognitive therapy can teach a person how to change these thought patterns and improve the experience of pain.
"The whole idea is that your thoughts and emotions have a profound impact on how you cope" with chronic pain, says Thorn. "There's very good evidence that cognitive therapy can reduce the overall experience of pain."
Cognitive therapy is also a proven treatment for depression. According to Thorn, cognitive therapy "reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety" in chronic pain patients.
In one study Thorn conducted, at the end of a 10-week cognitive therapy program, "95% of patients felt their lives were improved, and 50% said they had less pain." She also says, "Many participants also reduced their need for medications."