When You Are Emotionally In Pain, Can It Become Physical Too?

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The human mind does not only regulate emotions. It also processes pain, whether it’s a pain from a broken arm or gout. Pain and emotion share space in the brain and the appropriate emotions can positively affect physical pain.

Ashley Boynes-Shuck, a blogger and health promoter from Pittsburgh, suffered from idiopathic arthritis and severe constant pain as early as ten years of age. According to her, having a positive, optimistic, and hopeful outlook in life as well as concentrating on helping other people is a marvelous way of coping with the pain.

Pain And Emotion Share The Same Space Inside The Human Mind

Inflammation in certain parts of the body, such as in rheumatoid arthritis can continue to create pain signals in the brain even though there is no physical injury. Pain from getting hurt physically or from a surgical procedure can still be felt even after the recovery of the body. The short-lived aching due to an injury is replaced by continuing, chronic pain that persists freely.

“Brain” published a study done in 2013 on a group of people for more than 12 months whose minor pain elevated to persistent and chronic physical illnesses. Dr. David Hanscom, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, said that the pain felt by the patients increased from minor to extreme and the acute pain center was linked with their emotional center.

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Pain Can Be Adversely Affected By Negative Emotions

The emotions you feel can affect you physically because emotions, negative or positive, share the same real estate as the sensory centers of the brain. Boynes-Shuck related that when she was down emotionally about her illnesses, she was not in the mood to socialize. She didn’t even want to go out at all. Exercise and social interaction can alleviate pain, but people with chronic pain usually don’t do it. And according to Darnall, negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, or depression can increase the pain being processed by your brain.

The pain felt by those suffering from it can also lead to adverse reactions. Managing pain daily can result in feelings of frustration, disgust, and stress. There are more or less 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, and they tend to develop depression or an anxiety issue. And take note, depressed patients are at three times at risk of suffering from chronic pain.

Lisa Harris, from Waynesville, Ohio, has had psoriatic arthritis since her mid-thirties. She states that she ’doesn’t want to leave her house to socialize with friends or to visit relatives because of the pain she experiences.

Pain Can Be Positively Affected By Positive Emotions

Darnall states that knowing that emotions affect how pain is experienced is helpful, but only if you obtain the appropriate skills to influence your experience.

There are various ways of dealing with chronic pain. You can have yourself assessed by a pain specialist, doctor, or a pain psychologist. Or you could try biofeedback, acupuncture or yoga. And any form of exercise is the right way of alleviating pain. According to Darnall, which method works differs with different individuals depending on the age and their condition. The best strategy is to face the situation in many different angles and to consult medical professionals.

Many medical professionals have themselves experienced chronic pain. Dr. Hanscom suffered from chronic back discomfort for almost 15 years. He decided to look for options other than surgery. In his book, “Back in Control,” his strategy for dealing with chronic pain includes ways on how to sleep soundly, managing his stress and taking medication for the aching, coupled with meditative-type methods to shift his brain from the pain pathways to no-pain conduits. However, Hanscom skirts the issue of emotions and chronic pain, stating feeling is but a very shallow connection to it.

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You Can Be Free From Pain

The close relationship between pain and emotions should not be a source of personal blame for people suffering from chronic pain. Darnall states that explaining the relationship between depression and feelings is about empowering people and not about blaming them. Harris shifted to a new pain management medicine for her psoriatic arthritis, and her symptoms improved, but she reports that having a transformed rapport with her family. She can now enjoy things like playing with her kids and coaching her youngest child in cheerleading, which has helped relieve her aches and pain.

Hanscom has mentioned that his patients were freed from pain using his strategies. However, there are many individuals with chronic pain who will still feel some level of pain. Despite this, their emotional state can even help them deal with their chronic pain. Boynes-Shuck states that some days are terrible for her, but daily, her attitude determines what kind of day ’she’s going to have.

Categories: Understanding Pain