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Five Misconceptions About Chronic Pain

Back, Neck, Head, Shoulder…: Pain is a common experience that can appear in any part of the body. According to the Spanish Association of Health Managers, 40-80% of medical consultations are related to pain, and it is estimated that 17% of the Spanish population suffer from chronic pain, which occurs when pain episodes occur for at least three months.

What role does the brain play in this pain experience that persists over time? As Ruben Nieto, a psychologist specializing in persistent pain and professor at the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), explains, “Pain is a subjective experience that shapes the brain through the interaction of multiple factors and between these factors. Psychological factors play a very important role.” Thus, There are frequent public beliefs that chronic or persistent pain may not be real.

Here are Some Misconceptions About Pain:

If No Physical Cause is Found, it is the Person who Compensates for the Pain.

The fact that sometimes no easily identifiable cause can be found for a person’s pain can lead to the belief that their pain is being invented. However, like psychologist Robin Nieto and Mate Serrat, authors of Pain and Psychology: Why a Pain Specialist Is Necessary? Pain is always real and generated, no matter what a person may say or think.

Traditionally, pain is understood “from a biomedical model associated with tissue damage, explaining that the greater the damage (the greater the pain), the greater the pain. Thanks to neuroscience, we know that’s not the case,” notes Syrat, giving an example of the phantom limb, which occurs when a person feels pain in a part of their body that they no longer feel. “It is possible to feel pain without a physical body and it is as real as if you had this physical part. We must keep in mind that feeling pain is neither necessary nor sufficient to generate pain”, says the psychiatrist and physical therapist.

The Pain is Physical or Psychological

According to experts, pain is an opinion of the brain that is not directly related to the amount of physical damage it can suffer, but is related to the “amount” of threat or danger that the brain interprets as potential or actual injury. can be born. But, as Robin Netto explains, polarizing pain as physical or psychological is meaningless “to the point where the experience of pain is unique and uniquely constructed for each person, based on the interaction of multiple factors. And although psychological factors may have an important weight in the experience of pain, this does not mean that pain can be classified as exclusively psychological.

One of the psychological factors that modulate pain is mood, which can influence how pain is felt. “If we feel sad, for example, we tend to see things in a more negative light and have them affect us more. In this sense, what we call catastrophic thoughts can appear, which consists of seeing the situation (pain) as something we can’t do anything about AND occupies a large part of our thoughts, and as something horrible, much more than it really is, badly,” says the professor at the University of British Columbia. Likewise, stress can also affect, increase, or “excite” pain, while feeling pain can create stress.

Nothing Can be Done to Help Ease the Pain

As Netto and Serrat explained, feeling pain when any part of the body is in danger is not only natural, but also desirable. But when it does not fulfill this function of survival and protection, it stops doing its work. In these cases, the work of the person feeling the pain is fundamental.

“Pain does not necessarily mean tissue damage, but the brain has learned to associate certain sensations and perceptions with pain. It’s about teaching the brain to reimagine and retrain those relationships. These concepts can be reformulated through education in the neuroscience of pain, explaining the mechanisms by which the associations occur and through different techniques and exercises, as pointed out by Mait Sirat.

So, if the brain interprets that even if there is real damage, it is not necessary for the person to take a specific action, then pain will not be generated, as happens when someone detects a bruise and doesn’t even remember where and when they were hit. “Recognizing that the experience of pain is part of the learning process, it can be ignored in order to receive the education properly and for the brain to be able to create new association concepts that allow us to create functional pain for our survival and eliminate it at the same time. constant suffering that no longer fulfills its mission”, explains the psychiatrist.

Chronic or Persistent Pain is a Female Issue

Some diseases, such as Fibromyalgia, are mainly associated with women, and this fact can lead to the belief that chronic or persistent pain is an experience that only women experience. However, according to Robin Nieto and Might Serratt, there is a problem of underdiagnosis of diseases such as fibromyalgia in males “perhaps due to the social stigma due to the very feminine nature of the disease and the stereotype of male power in the face of pain . They noted that it is necessary and urgent to apply a gender perspective in all areas, and the context of pain is no exception.

The Environment of a Person with Chronic or Persistent Pain Cannot do Anything to Help

According to psychologists, people in the environment can, through their behavior, influence the factors that contribute to the modulation of the patient’s pain. That’s why their role is also important. “If, for example, when the person in pain has demonstrated his problem, someone in his environment does all his activities, and does so all the time, surely, unintentionally, it will make it so that when the person in pain wants to do the activities encounter more difficulties. Neto and Serrat emphasize that avoiding is not a good strategy, it is necessary to confront. It is therefore important to involve those close to you in treatments so that people in pain can effectively deal with what is needed Messages and indications are also very important, so a proper understanding of the process and factors that make up the pain arrangement is essential .

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