The Psychology of Low Back Pain

A lot of studies have been done into low back pain because of how common it is and its disruptiveness to a person’s daily life. Plus, the fact that there are many potential causes for it. However, people don’t experience back pain in the same way, and the same cause may cause very different levels of pain. This results in people having different responses to pain. The way a person thinks, their outlook on the pain, and their attitude can play a role in how they perceive pain. The article shows how understanding mental health and attitudes can affect a person’s perception of pain.

Pain creates a downward spiral; when you hurt, you can’t move your body as much, and that reduced movement affects people’s mental states. Negative emotions can make people more prone to negative thinking, which can make them experience pain more often and more intensely. If a person has a mental predisposition, such as anxiety or depression, or other mental ailment, this likely means they have a chemical imbalance. This can not only affect their emotions, but how they perceive pain. The pain sensation can exacerbate their emotions, which makes them more aware of the pain. This can make some sufferers focus on the pain to the point that they have problems focusing on anything else.

Pain itself can also change how people perceive the sensation as it changes how the body relays the sensation to the brain. The longer the pain lasts, the better the connection between the sensation of pain and the brain, which can emotionally upset the sufferer. It can make the sufferer anticipate the pain, which can actually trigger it.

To help people with pre-existing conditions or those who have dealt with chronic pain, experts have devised psychological therapies. The primary focus of the therapies is to change how people think about pain, thereby reducing the sensations. These therapies are called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). It provides a way of reducing pain while improving a person’s emotional state. Most of the treatments require the patient to participant in an 8-week course. Another therapy used to deal with emotions and pain is the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is effective at stopping acute pain from becoming chronic back pain. Another treatment is hypnosis, though it is less reliable and requires a certain amount of buy-in by patients. CBT and hypnosis have not been quite as effective as MBSR, but they do provide another alternative to traditional treatments. Some patients are also recommended to have progressive muscle relaxation, which can reduce some types of negative emotions, like anxiety.

Just because low back pain is a part of a mental or emotional experience, that doesn’t mean that what the patient feels isn’t real pain. Mind and body are not separate, so they should not be treated completely separately.

It is common to think that the mental state and physical pain are disconnected, but numerous studies have found connections. For the full article on this connection, check out The Psychology of Low Back Pain.

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