Psychosomatic Pain: What it is and what you can do about it.

Psychosomatic Pain: What it is and what you can do about it.

By Gaynel Nave, ND

Psychosomatic pain is defined as pain that involves the mind (psyche) and body (soma). The mind cannot be separated from the body (it is part of the entire system), therefore when we get sick it is difficult in two ways: 1. The physical effects, 2. The way our mind is affected. This article addresses how your physical pain or sensitivity to pain may be related to your mental wellness, and what you can do to decrease your pain.

Until recently the relationship between physical illness and the mind was not seen as directly correlated. However, studies within the last decade have shown that the perception of pain is increased in depressive patients confirming what you have known; that when you are depressed you may also feel physically ill. Many people report that when experiencing depression, they ache both mentally and physically.

In depressed patients there is an increased correlation as you age with chronic pain, the most common one being a simple headache 1. The relationship of pain and depression is complicated to parse out as what came first: the chicken or the egg. Pain and depression are often associated because their neural pathways begin in the same centers of the brain 1. One theory is that when these pathways are disrupted by decreased mood then your body’s ability to decrease pain is then hindered, leading to pain that may be more generalized and difficult to locate 1,2,3. However, in the same way that your decreased mood can increase your perception of pain, your endorphins aka feel-good hormones can help to decrease it.

It is difficult to get out of a slump when it feels like it has been hanging around for so long; however, it is not impossible to change how you feel. One such beginning to change is through utilizing mindfulness; a practice of focusing your mind on the present. There are various mindfulness practices that you can employ while attempting to change your mood and your mind, and you do not have to be a experienced to reap the benefits 4. With just as little as 10 minutes per day, your brain will change. To ease yourself into mindfulness a guided meditation is a helpful aide. With the wonders of technology, there are now many smart-phone apps such as “Headspace”, “Insight timer”, and more that can be used. So, take your pick and get started today! You can do it!

If you have additional questions and want more support schedule an appointment with Gaynel Nave, ND so you can receive the support you deserve! Gaynel Nave, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor educating the Grand Rapids community. 

References:

  1. Kleiber, B., Jain, S., & Trivedi, M. H. (2005). Depression and pain: implications for symptomatic presentation and pharmacological treatments. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 2(5), 12-8.
  2. Giesecke, T., Gracely, R. H., Williams, D. A., Geisser, M. E., Petzke, F. W., & Clauw, D. J. (2005). The relationship between depression, clinical pain, and experimental pain in a chronic pain cohort. Arthritis & Rheumatism,52(5), 1577-1584. doi:10.1002/art.21008
  3. Ossipov, M. H., Morimura, K., & Porreca, F. (2014). Descending pain modulation and chronification of pain. Current opinion in supportive and palliative care, 8(2), 143-51.
  4. Study finds mindfulness meditation offers relief for low-back pain. (2016, March 22). Retrieved March 21, 2019, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/study-finds-mindfulness-meditation-offers-relief-low-back-pain

Disclaimer: In Michigan, Naturopathic Doctors are not yet licensed, Naturopathic Doctors are only able to provide health education to residents of Michigan.

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