Helping Patients with Physical Pain - December 2015
Inevitably, life will involve experiences with pain. Sometimes that pain is emotional or social, sometimes psychological and sometimes it is physical. With pain that is physical in its presentation, there is a strong connection between mind and body in how pain is experienced, given meaning, and managed. The team of Psychologists at Tyack Health routinely help patients learn to cope with daily ongoing physical pain by focusing on the ‘mind and body’ connection. Here are 3 strategies that our team find particularly useful.
1. Adopt a Mindful Approach
Teaching a patient to focus on the interaction between the mind and body and being aware of what the body is telling the mind can lead to a change in perception or understanding of their pain. It may still be painful and unpleasant, but it is no longer something that the patient needs to fight with, run from, or be overwhelmed by.
Training the mind to listen to the body and its pain triggers through pacing will also assist the patient in managing their activity levels throughout the day. This recognition also needs to be coupled with some strategies (relaxation, meditation etc) to allow the patient to self-regulate around pain triggers more consciously when they need to.
2. Utilise a Team Perspective
Pain is not one dimensional, it is multi-faceted and can arise from a plethora of different dimensions. For this reason, approaching a patient’s individual presentation through many different sets of eyes can often assist in addressing each facet of the problem.
A GP-led multi-modal approach to a patient will often help address the distinct physical (body) manifestations as well as the distinct mental (mind) processes that contribute to the patient’s pain.
3. Consider Technological Resources
Consider using technological aides to support therapeutic strategies. Here are some ideas:
• Apps that provide mindful tips (eg: Smiling Mind, MindShift, Mindfulness);
• Using the car radio to stream podcasts which talk about body/mind connection, pain triggers and pain management ideas;
• Playing relaxation or mindful meditation tracks on the ipod whilst out for a walk.