Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, with pervasive and debilitating symptoms that often take a toll on everyday activities. While most people consider pain a physical symptom, chronic pain also impacts emotional health.
At Vulcan Pain Management, Victor Mendoza, MD, uses a comprehensive, whole-patient approach to chronic pain management for patients in Birmingham, Alabama, going beyond the traditional treatments and incorporating various therapies to relieve symptoms and their effects. For many patients, Dr. Mendoza recommends cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as an effective way to manage chronic pain symptoms. Here's how CBT could help you.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that helps you identify negative thought patterns that can undermine your life and your health. CBT is a goal-oriented therapy that uses a series of sessions — typically 10-12 — to identify those patterns and learn healthier ways of thinking.
For many years, CBT has been used to help people with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders understand the thought processes that drive harmful behaviors. More recently, CBT has become recognized as an effective tool for helping people manage chronic pain.
During CBT, your therapist may give you "homework assignments" and ask you to keep a journal or other record of your thoughts and responses. You'll also talk about your pain and its impact on your life. You and your therapist will work closely to develop a therapy plan unique to your symptoms and lifestyle.
CBT helps people with chronic pain manage their conditions in multiple ways.
Chronic pain can be overwhelming — not just physically but emotionally, too. When you feel overwhelmed, it's easy to fall into negative thought patterns that can leave you feeling drained, hopeless, and helpless — patterns that can increase your pain.
CBT is especially useful for "unlearning" negative thinking habits and replacing them with a positive mindset. Once you can deal with negative thoughts, you're better positioned to glean the benefits of your pain management plan.
A big part of managing chronic pain is knowing how to cope with symptoms when they occur. When you aren’t able to cope, you can wind up feeling frustrated, depressed, and even angry with yourself and others, feelings that can interfere with your treatment while exacerbating your symptoms.
During CBT, you’ll learn ways to cope with your symptoms, including ways to relax and reduce stress. These techniques can help reduce the severity of your symptoms while improving your mood and outlook.
Chronic pain is frequently accompanied by feelings of anxiety and depression, especially when your pain limits your mobility. In turn, depression and anxiety can make your symptoms feel a lot worse. CBT is especially effective in helping people "short-circuit" these feelings and their negative impacts on pain and treatment.
Although CBT is a type of psychotherapy, it’s important to note that it can play a big role in improving the physical symptoms of CBT as well as the emotional symptoms. By reducing the intensity of your pain, CBT may enhance other types of therapy, making it easier to exercise or take part in physical therapy, for instance.
If you have chronic pain, exploring all the options available to help you feel better and improve your overall wellness is important. To learn how CBT can be a part of your chronic pain management plan, call 205-258-7246 or book an appointment online at Vulcan Pain Management today.