Often people struggling with chronic pain find themselves bouncing from doctor to doctor. They’re given different treatments like opioids, surgery, or steroid injections. It sometimes seems like everyone has a different diagnosis for what’s wrong with them. Yet nothing ever really helps. It’s like there’s no cure for their pain.
That’s a scenario that people with fibromyalgia know well. But part of the problem might be the way we think about chronic pain. There’s growing evidence that trying to treat chronic pain as a purely physical problem may not be the most effective method.
Instead, doctors may need to look at the psychological basis for chronic pain. And some have suggested that pain reprocessing therapy may be an effective method of treating chronic pain. So what is pain reprocessing therapy? And can it be an effective way to treat fibromyalgia?
What Is Pain Reprocessing Therapy?
Pain serves as a warning sign of damage to the body. When you’re injured, the nerves send signals to the brain that it processes as pain. This gives you a chance to get away from whatever is causing the damage. In that sense, pain plays a very important role in keeping us alive. That’s why humans have evolved to feel pain in the first place.
The problem comes when the body begins sending pain signals without any actual source of damage. These chronic pain signals don’t help you survive, but they’re a source of constant misery.
The idea behind pain reprocessing therapy is to train your body to ignore these signals that don’t serve a useful purpose. Working with a therapist, a patient learns to recognize when they’re experiencing these signals and ask themselves if the signals are actually dangerous.
In the case of fibromyalgia, a patient would take a moment when they’re feeling pain and remind themselves that “this is just fibromyalgia pain, and while it hurts, it won’t kill me.”
Pain reprocessing therapy proponents suggest that, over time, this can train the body to ignore those signals. This would decrease the total amount of pain they experience.
Can It Treat Fibromyalgia?
As to how this therapy actually works out in practice, the truth is that no one is really sure. There’s some anecdotal evidence that suggests it may be helpful. And there are a few reasons to believe that this sort of approach to pain might work.
There’s little scientific evidence to support pain reprocessing therapy. But that may simply be because the therapy is relatively new and hasn’t been subjected to much testing.
A study is being planned by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder to test the effectiveness of these kinds of therapies for people with chronic back pain. The study will give a third of the subjects psychiatric talk therapy, a third no therapy, and the last third a placebo saline injection.
The results may show just effective these kinds of non-surgical or pharmaceutical therapies can be. At the moment, the study seems to be waiting for test subjects. So if you live in the Boulder, Colorado area and suffer from chronic back pain, you may consider joining the study.
There is evidence that chronic pain can have a psychological basis. We know that chronic stress or traumatic events in the past can contribute to chronic pain conditions.
But as far as fibromyalgia goes, the truth is probably a bit more complex. We don’t know for sure whether psychological distress causes the chronic pain of fibromyalgia or if the stress makes people more likely to develop whatever physical condition leads to fibromyalgia.
It might be that the psychological trauma contributes to the physical pain of fibromyalgia. And if this is the case, then it makes sense that talk therapy treatments could help reduce the amount of pain someone with fibromyalgia experiences.
There’s also evidence that taking efforts to increase your overall mental wellbeing can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Taken together with the fact that people with fibromyalgia frequently suffer from higher levels of depression and are at a higher risk of suicide, some form of mental health counseling is actually an important part of managing the condition in the long term.
There’s really no reason not to pursue some kind of therapy, and the good news is that it may actually improve the amount of pain you experience. So while there’s little solid evidence to support pain reprocessing therapy, it might be worth trying as part of a broader counseling plan.
What do you think? Have you tried pain reprocessing therapy? Did it help? Would you like to try it? Let us know in the comments?