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“Giving Tuesday” Coming Up!

November 24th, 2014 · 1 Comment

The U.S. Pain Foundation is participating in the #GivingTuesday initiative!

Similar to “Black Friday” or “free online shipping Monday”, #GivingTuesday will be on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving – December 2nd this year. This day will encourage all to “celebrate generosity and give”.

How can you give?

On Dec 2, the U.S. Pain Foundation will highlight all of the programs and services they partner with to raise awareness of pain conditions.  You can start now and think how you’d like to contribute.

How can you spread the word?

You can help promote #GivingTuesday by telling your family and friends about it, and by spreading the word on social media – your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, etc.

It’s a great way to get involved!  Here is the initiative website:  #GivingTuesday Initiative

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Free Family Camp for Children with Pain

November 17th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Here’s the greatest news I’ve seen recently…

4 organizations have come together to create a camp for kids with pain.  A BIG shout out to The Coalition Against Pediatric Pain (TCAPP), RSDSA, US Pain Foundation and The Center for Courageous Kids in Kentucky!!!  This will be a family camp that will take place at The Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, Kentucky from July 14-17th and is free of charge.  They write, “It will be a time for families and kids that deal with daily pain to kick up their heels and have fun in a safe, accepting environment!”

To learn more about the camp location and what they have to offer, visit The Center for Courageous Kids website.  To apply for the pediatric pain family camp, access the application here.

This is such a good idea that I encourage you to support this effort.  You can contact RSDSA or US Pain Foundation for more information or to make a donation.

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May You Be at Peace

November 10th, 2014 · No Comments

This is a sweet video of a cat and frog at peace.  I hope it brings you calmness and a smile!

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Women and Pain Chat – Nov 6

November 3rd, 2014 · No Comments

Pain Pathways is offering a chat with experts on women and pain.  The date is this week on Thursday, November 6, at 8pm ET.  Click here for more info on the Pain Pathways Facebook page.

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New Brain Re-Training Treatments for Pain

October 27th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Welcome to the last article in our series Why You Should See a Pain Management Psychiatrist.  This week we’ll look at using newer treatments such as mirror therapy and graded motor imagery for pain.

In chronic pain, your brain is changed so that signals get “stuck” in pain-mode.  Chronic pain creates actual changes in your brain.  As well, when you’re in pain, you often use your body part less, so there are less signals of normal movement registering in your brain. This can create a downward cycle:

Pain →
less use of your body →
fewer “normal movement” signals competing with pain signals →
more pain →
less use of your body, etc.

How can you break this cycle?

There are newer treatments based on the concept that re-training your brain can decrease pain. These treatments are exciting, and some patients using them have had good success decreasing their pain.

Mirror therapy uses your visual system to “see” normal movement and reassure your brain that it no longer needs to produce pain signals. Graded motor imagery is a step-wise program aimed at breaking up movement into components, allowing your brain to slowly resume normal movement without producing pain.

Mirror therapy has been shown to be helpful in:

  • early CRPS
  • phantom pain
  • stroke
  • low back pain

Graded motor imagery has been shown to be helpful in:

  • chronic CRPS
  • phantom limb pain

Ongoing research is helping us learn more about these exciting treatments and fine-tune our use of them.

Click here to read other articles about these newer brain-based treatments.

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How a Pain Support Group Can Help

October 20th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Welcome to the continuing series Why You Should See a Pain Management Psychiatrist.  This week we’ll look at the benefits of pain support groups.

For many years, I’ve offered Coping with Pain support groups.  These sessions have both skill-building (learning exercises such as relaxation and visualization) and discussions on living with chronic pain (issues such as family issues, staying positive, working towards acceptance).  Some patients find them so helpful, they attend more than 1 series.

What are the benefits of these types of groups?

1. Decrease isolation
Many people with pain lose work friends, and can’t do as much with friends and family.  Pain can be very isolating.  Groups can increase your socialization.

Groups can help people realize they aren’t the only ones with significant pain – others in the group really understand your pain.  You feel less isolated.

2. Problem-solve with others
Each person in a group knows ways to cope with pain.  Sharing these can help others, and group members benefit from things others have learned.  There’s less “re-inventing the wheel” to figure out how to cope with pain.

3. Help others
Patients with pain often do less – at work, at home, hobbies, etc.  They become the “help-ee” rather than the “help-er” –  mostly receiving assistance.  Helping others in support groups lets patients have more balance between helping and being helped.  Helping others often increases self-esteem.

4. Expand support networks
As we said above, pain can be isolating.  Adding new people to your support network can be good for you, to have other people to rely on.  As well, this can lessen the load of those already in your support network, who may sometimes feel overburdened from the impact of your chronic illness.

5. Share resources
Living with chronic pain often means living with limitations and challenges – living a new type of life.  Sharing resources, information, and tricks and tips is an advantage of a group.

One important challenge of a group is to keep it focused on coping with pain.  Groups should not settle into complaining, focusing on pain, or focusing on whose pain is worse.

Readers, if you’ve attended a group, what’s been your experience?

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How Supportive Therapy Can Help You

October 13th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Welcome to the continuing series Why You Should See a Pain Management Psychiatrist.  This week we’ll look at how supportive therapy can be useful to you.

Supportive therapy helps people cope with a difficult situation through listening and support, problem-solving, and instilling hope.  How does it help?

1. Telling your story

Chronic pain is often a life-changing situation.  Research by Viederman and others has shown that telling your story to someone who listens, cares and responds is important.  Exploring how this life-changing situation fits in with your life story is also beneficial.  “Life Narrative” work has been done with patients with cancer and is very positive.  Sometimes an outlet in addition to your family and friends is needed, so having a place to talk about and make sense of your experiences is necessary.

2. Ongoing adjustment

Adjusting to chronic pain is not a one-and-done task.  It usually requires on-going adjustment, as your condition changes.  As well, other things in your life change, and your pain will impact your life differently at different points.

For example, when you have little kids, not being able to do some activities with them can be discouraging, and can require creativity to work around.  In contrast, when your kids are older, they may require less physical interaction.  But then, perhaps, the financial stress of not working may affect your family more.  Having a place to work through these issues as they come up is important.

3. Family support

As you know, your pain affects not just you, but your family and friends too.  Having your family get support during difficult times is useful, too.  In my practice, I often see not just the person with pain, but a spouse or family, too.  A good resource for families is:  Surviving a Loved One’s Chronic Pain.

Readers, have you found supportive therapy helpful?

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Psychiatric Pain Management: Grief and Recovery

October 6th, 2014 · No Comments

Welcome to the continuing series Why You Should See a Pain Management Psychiatrist.  This week we’ll look at making changes in how you see your pain condition and the disability it causes.

Both pain itself and the negative changes it causes in your life are CHALLENGING to cope with.  People experience a lot of loss – loss of:

  • good health
  • being pain-free
  • doing enjoyable activities with family and friends
  • going to work
  • hope or spirituality

Many go through the “Stages of Grief,” which are:

  • Denial – you can’t believe this is happening to you
  • Anger – that so many negative changes are occuring
  • Bargaining – you’d do anything to get back your previous life
  • Depression – difficulty coping, and mourning the loss of your pain-free life
  • Acceptance – coming to terms with pain and the changes it brings

These stages are a process, a working through, and for many, are slow.  I believe that to move forward, you often must first recognize and mourn for what you’ve lost.

Let’s look more at acceptanceacceptance of both pain and the changes in your life.

Acceptance is:
1. No longer struggling with pain.
You might say, “I don’t like this, but I accept that this is the situation I’m in.”

2. A realistic approach to pain.
You might say, “I’ll put realistic energy towards getting better, but not put my life on hold waiting for my pain to go to zero.”

3. An engagement in positive everyday activities.
You might say, “I’ll put my energy towards my life.”

Is this worthwhile to work towards?  Yes!  A pain researcher, McCracken, has shown that – no matter what level of pain intensity – greater acceptance of pain all by itself predicts:

  • lower reports of pain
  • less pain-related anxiety and avoidance
  • less depression and disability
  • better work status

How can you move towards acceptance?  Again, the process is often slow.  What I’ve found to be helpful is:

1.  Grieve for what you’ve lost
2.  Mindfulness training = acceptance of what is
3.  Have a goal of living a full life despite pain

To read more about acceptance, here are several other How to Cope with Pain articles:

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Psychiatric Pain Management: Just Do It!

September 29th, 2014 · No Comments

Welcome to the continuing series Why You Should See a Pain Management Psychiatrist.  This week we’ll look at behavior changes that can help you live better and get better.

1. Do positive activities

It’s important that you keep up activities when you have chronic pain.  A pain management psychiatrist will help you with pacing, which is not doing too much nor too little.  A clever idea is using the concept of $1 to help you pace yourself.  You’ll also learn how to motivate yourself to regularly do your assigned physical therapy exercises.

2. Alter old activities or choose new ones

A pain management psychiatrist will work with you to figure out what activities you can do, what you should avoid, and, if you need to, how to replace or alter favorite activities so you can still do them.

Let’s say you love gardening, but you can’t do as much as you once did.  It’s important not to drop something you really enjoy.  So figure out what aspect of gardening you love.  If it’s seeing green by your front door, try container gardening instead of doing the whole frontyard.  If it’s being outside, garden for 15 minutes instead of 5 hours, then sit in or walk through a garden to enjoy the outdoors.  You get the idea – alter what you need to, so you can continue to enjoy your favorites.

These changes in behavior help in several ways:

  • you focus on what you can do
  • you avoid having pain determine what your life is like
  • you focus on living, rather than pain
  • your nervous system benefits, too, by having signals from normal activity nudge pain signals over

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Pain Pathways Magazine Celebrates Pain Awareness Month

September 22nd, 2014 · 1 Comment

September is Pain Awareness Month.  Pain Pathways has a special edition, with an emphasis on neuromodulation.  (You can also send a selfie to Pain Pathways and be entered to win a subscription.)

September Pain Pathways

Pain Pathways article index

Current Issue

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