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  • Writer's pictureRay Chen

Pain...What does the research say? How should we treat it?

Updated: Aug 31, 2021


Pain is a global health problem that affects approximately 1 in 5 adults worldwide. It puts a huge burden on our healthcare systems worldwide. Pain-related problems are higher than ever before due to the ageing population.


The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) has defined pain as an emotional and sensory experience that is unpleasant, coming from the actual or potential damage to tissue. Chronic pain is classified as persistent pain that lasts at least 3 months, or past the normal time of tissue healing.


As a society, we dose up on pain medications to help relieve our pain symptoms. However, the evidence shows that pain medications provide little to no benefit when treating chronic pain. It may actually exacerbate symptoms and worsen the problem going forward. Don’t get me wrong, medications still have an important role in pain management, but they should not be the main option that gets considered when dealing with longstanding pain.


So why are people still being constantly prescribed medications and taking them for chronic pain?


I believe that the simple answer is that as a society, we fear pain and try to resist it as much as possible. We do all we can to ignore it and take drugs to dull the symptoms. This is so we don’t need to face the pain and deal with it. The truth is medications can only mask the pain, they can’t treat the cause…


Research suggests that treating pain requires an approach from all angles. Treating the physical, emotional, mental, and social factors are all required to help manage pain. My personal and professional experiences with pain have taught me that pain requires understanding, attention, and care.


This is where mindfulness comes in. Research has shown that mindfulness can benefit many forms of pain, from emotional pain such as depression, to joint and back pain, to cancer pain. By integrating mindfulness into the treatment of pain, we can learn to work with it, to understand and accept it, to detach from our negative thoughts and emotions around it. Approaching the pain with kindness and compassion can drastically improve our experience of pain. Being mindful with our breathing and body awareness, movement and rehabilitation, daily living, mental and emotional state, and social factors are all required to manage pain.


Please reach out if you have any questions or require further information about pain, and how to tackle it.


You can follow me on Insta @raychenzen or connect with me here :)


Freedom from pain is within you!



Warm regards,



Ray



References:


Day, M. A., Ward, L. C., Ehde, D. M., Thorn, B. E., Burns, J., Barnier, A., Mattingley, J. B., & Jensen, M. P. (2019). A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Mindfulness Meditation, Cognitive Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain. Pain Medicine, 20(11), 2134–2148. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pny273


Goldberg, D. S., & McGee, S. J. (2011). Pain as a global public health priority. BMC Public Health, 11, 770. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-770


Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., Colaiaco, B., Maher, A. R., Shanman, R. M., Sorbero, M. E., & Maglione, M. A. (2017). Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199–213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-016-9844-2


Jinich-Diamant, A., Garland, E., Baumgartner, J., Gonzalez, N., Riegner, G., Birenbaum, J., Case, L., & Zeidan, F. (2020). Neurophysiological Mechanisms Supporting Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief: an Updated Review. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 24(10), 56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-020-00890-8


Krebs, E. E., Gravely, A., Nugent, S., Jensen, A. C., DeRonne, B., Goldsmith, E. S., Kroenke, K., Bair, M. J., & Noorbaloochi, S. (2018). Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain: The SPACE Randomized Clinical Trial. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 319(9), 872–882. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.0899


Lumley, M. A., Cohen, J. L., Borszcz, G. S., Cano, A., Radcliffe, A. M., Porter, L. S., Schubiner, H., & Keefe, F. J. (2011). Pain and emotion: a biopsychosocial review of recent research. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(9), 942–968. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20816


Rezaei, S., & Hassanzadeh, S. (2019). Are mindfulness skills associated with reducing kinesiophobia, pain severity, pain catastrophizing and physical disability? Results of Iranian patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Health Psychology Report. https://doi.org/10.5114/hpr.2019.84747






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