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back-pain-tms-psychosomaticEmotional pain not only causes stress and depression but also physical pain. When people feel emotional pain the brain activates the same area of the brain as physical pain the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex to be exact.

If you think of it this way it makes senses, how many times have you stubbed your toe or stood on a plug and felt physical pain and anger at the same time? with the physical pain, you know exactly where the pain hurts as the neural, blood and immune pathways between the brain and body are tagged with body location information beginning in the spinal cord and with successively more specific tagging up through the brain stem and thalamus.

This communication lets you know exactly where the pain is so it’s natural to conclude emotional pain must have a physical location and all emotions have a trigger point. These micro-momentary muscular activations begin the premotor area, which is responsible for forming an emotional expression in the body.

The nervous system is an elaborate network of cells that facilitates communication between our brains and the rest of our bodies, directly links our physical selves to our emotional life. Voluntary muscles, involuntary muscles, and our five senses can be influenced by our emotional responses of our bodies so we can manifest a nearly infinite variety of physical responses to stress.

Emotional factors can contribute to or cause a range of physical conditions. As an example have you ever had someone sound you out and hurt your feelings but instead of screaming in their faces, you said nothing at all. You might be holding on to some residual muscle tension in your neck, throat or jaw (holding back your scream).

Anxiety can trigger activation in any of these muscles triggering a huge variety of physical responses as shown in the emotional and physical pain chart below…

emotional-chart-nervous-system

Our emotions can have a direct impact on our health if you have been suffering from chronic pain for a long time and nothing the doctors prescribes helps you then your pain might be psychosomatic and seeing a psychotherapist to rule out emotional factors earlier in the diagnostic process can save money and heartache, which is especially important because the emotional upset associated with failed medical procedures and treatments can cause symptoms to worsen.

How Psychotherapy Can Help with Chronic Pain

People with chronic pain may sometimes resist exploring the possibility that their pain has an emotional root, perhaps out of fear of being accused of inventing the symptoms or causing them on purpose. However, individuals with SSD or emotionally rooted chronic pain do experience real pain, a fact that therapists and medical providers generally accept. Reluctance to admit to the emotional roots of pain may also stem from the belief that emotion-based chronic pain is less likely to have a medical cure. In addition, the prospect of confronting the deeper emotions that may be causing the pain can seem like a daunting task.

However, confronting those emotions and achieving catharsis—a release of pent-up emotions—may provide both short- and long-term relief. Relief may not be permanent, though, as emotions held for a long time in the body can transform to primarily physical symptoms, and they may not be relieved by an emotional release in all cases. In this case, therapy may be more effective when combined with another form of treatment.

Biofeedback is a form of therapy that can be useful in learning to identify the ways the body experiences pain. Understanding the body’s response can help a person develop ways to manage and relieve pain. Therapy can help individuals remain hopeful, and it can be an effective treatment to supplement any prescribed medications. Relaxation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have both been shown to be effective at treating people who live with chronic pain.

Alternative Therapies For Psychosomatic Pain

The Common Alternative Therapies For Psychosomatic Pain Are:

  • Relaxation Technique To Help Overcome Psychosomatic Pain: The various relaxation techniques like guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation technique etc. helps in relieving the physical and mental stress and relaxes the mind and body. Progressive muscle relaxation technique could be very good for people with body pain as it focuses on contracting a muscle followed by releasing the muscle tension thus easing out the pain to a great extent.
  • Hypnosis To Treat Somatoform Disorders: It focuses on resolving the underlying unconscious drives, desires or wishes which is manifesting itself in the form of a somatic symptom. Though there have been a lot of controversies in the technique of hypnosis as a therapy, it has been found to be very useful in treating cases of somatoform disorders.
  • Massage: Various massage techniques have been found to give some relief to patients with psychosomatic pain or pain disorders. The forms include chiropractic massage, shiatsu, etc.
  • Art Therapies: Art therapies focus on the expression of emotion using different art techniques like music, painting, dance, etc. A body-oriented art therapy is found to do wonders in the treatment of psychosomatic pain disorder. Dance therapy can be of great use since it allows expression of emotion, often conflicting ones, and also the movement helps in relieving pain.
  • The other alternative treatments for psychosomatic pain disorder may be hot and cold compressions, distraction techniques, Acupuncture and acupressure, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS).

Suffering from a psychosomatic pain might be very difficult to explain or communicate to people as there isn’t any physical cause and other might think that the patient is faking. Many a time wrong diagnosis happens due to lack of awareness. Thus a proper guidance from an experienced physician who has treated psychosomatic pain earlier is very important.

References:
Abbass, A. (2003). The cost-effectiveness of short-term dynamic psychotherapy. Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics Outcomes Research, 3, 535-539.
Abbass, A. (2004). The case for specialty-specific core curriculum on emotions and health. Royal College Outlook, 1,5-7.
Abbass, A. (2005). Somatization: Diagnosing it sooner through emotion-focused interviewing. The Journal of Family Practice, 54, 215-224.
Abbass, A., Campbell, S., Magee, K., & Tarzwell, R. (2009). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy to reduce rates of emergency department visits for patients with medically unexplained physical symptoms: Preliminary evidence from a pre-post intervention study. Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, 11, 1-6.
Abbass, A., Campbell, S., Hann, G., Lenzer, I., Tarzwell, R., & Maxwell, D. (2010). Cost savings of treatment of medically unexplained symptoms using intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy by a hospital emergency department. Journal of the Academy of Medical Psychology, 1, 34-43.
Davanloo, H. (2000). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy: Selected papers of Habib Davanloo, MD.Chichester: Wiley.
Janig, W. (2003). The autonomic nervous system and its coordination by the brain. In Davidson, R. J., Scherer, K. R., & Goldsmith, H. H. (Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences(pp. 135-187). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cherney, K. (2014, April 11). Is Fibromyalgia Real or Imagined? Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/fibromyalgia-real-or-imagined#2.
Chronic Pain: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment. (2011). NIH Medline Plus, 5-6.
Managing chronic pain: How psychologists can help with pain management. (2013, December 1). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/pain-management.aspx.
Rogge, T. (2014, September 2). Somatic Symptom Disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000955.htm.
What is chronic pain? (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/understanding-pain-management-chronic-pain.
Links
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/body-sense/201204/emotional-and-physical-pain-activate-similar-brain-regions
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201004/the-connections-between-emotional-stress-trauma-and-physical-pain
http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/do-your-physical-symptoms-have-emotional-explanation-0531165
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