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Why feeling connected makes us feel good

The following article was published via Beyond Blue and explains why connection can improve mental health.

How much social connection we seek out varies from one person to another, but one thing’s for sure – as humans, we share a fundamental need to interact with and feel connected to others.

“We are social creatures by nature,” says Relationships Australia National Executive Officer, Nick Tebbey. “That feeling of belonging and being connected is really important for our wellbeing.”

Research backs that up, with a 2017 study finding that social connectedness and mental health are not only inextricably linked, it tends to be connectedness that promotes good mental health rather than the other way around.

“On the other hand,” says Tebbey, “we know that feeling isolated and lonely has a significant impact on our mental and physical health.”

The many faces of connection

What it takes to feel connected can be different for everyone.

“Connection doesn’t look the same for all of us and that’s actually a real positive,” says Tebbey. “It means we’re able to connect – and feel connected – in so many different ways, regardless of our circumstances.”

So, while some kinds of connectedness revolve around physically spending time with like-minded people or doing something unifying – such as being part of a sports team or a book club – others are far less organised.

Woman giving some groceries to her elderly neighbour

“Sometimes all it takes is making the effort to say hello to a neighbour,” says Tebbey. “Even small acts like that foster a genuine sense of connection.”

A study of Relationships Australia’s 2019 Neighbour Day – an annual campaign that encourages people to connect with others in their community – proved exactly that. Those who made the effort to do something neighbourly experienced an increased sense of belonging.

“It doesn’t have to be your next-door neighbour or neighbourhood community either,” explains Tebbey. “Communities exist in many different forms, including those you belong to online.”

And don’t forget how nice it can be to receive something in the post. Letter writing may be a lost art but there’s something really lovely about knowing someone has taken the time to put pen to paper just for you. Our premier partner Australia Post have launched a special release stamp set to encourage people to stay connected. Learn more here.

Sometimes you don’t even need anything tangible or actual interaction with others to feel connected.

“A really good example of that was the ‘teddy bear hunt’ that popped up all over the world as a response to COVID-19,” recalls Tebbey. “Simply participating made you feel like you were a part of something and, through that, more connected.”

One explanation for that is the fact that connectedness is actually a subjective thing, which means it relies far less on hard facts, like how large your social circle is, and far more on what you believe, sense or feel.

“This subjectiveness explains why it’s possible to feel connected to a group of strangers, but also why you can sometimes feel lonely or unconnected among a group of people you know,” adds Tebbey.

Bear in window

Starting a conversation

If you are experiencing loneliness or struggling to feel a real sense of connection, Tebbey suggests speaking up or reaching out.

“Surveys we’ve conducted at Relationships Australia indicate that most of us are quite capable of recognising when we’re feeling isolated or lonely. However, we’re less well equipped to understand why we’re feeling like that, and, importantly, what we can do about it.

“Talking to people you’re close to about how you’re feeling and asking them for help – if you feel comfortable – can be a good starting point. It may even help you identify larger issues that you need to seek support around in order to feel more connected.

“And if you don’t have someone close to talk to or find that it doesn’t help, reach out to a support service like Beyond Blue.”

The Beyond Blue online forums are a great way to connect with people online in a safe and anonymous environment. Discussion topics cover anxiety, depression, suicide, and a range of other life issues. Anyone in Australia can participate in discussions, connect with others, and share their experiences with our community.

If you need assistance visit Beyond Blue’s support services. Our mental health professionals are available 24/7 on: 1300 22 4636. Click here for a web chat (3pm-12am AEST). Alternatively, contact us via email (responses within 24 hours).

For immediate support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and in an emergency, always call triple zero (000)

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Can AI Chatbots be a Tool in Pain Management

The news cycle has recently been dominated by the advances, innovation and also the dangers of AI technology.

It raised the question “Can AI Chatbots be a tool in Pain Management?”.

A few years ago it would be thought futuristic to be talking about this possibility.  However with the huge digital advances made during the pandemic, medical practitioners, researchers and data evaluation processes are using AI in many different ways.

With the advent of the internet, social media and the pandemic which forced people to be isolated and readily engaged with concepts like Dr Google, is there a danger that people living with chronic pain may exclusively turn to the internet to find answers?

Many in our community are likely to be more educated about all aspects of trigeminal neuralgia than their GP’s and Dentists.  They are constantly looking for new treatments or innovation in the pain management space, and that searching is generally done online.  Gone are the days of heading to the library to find answers.  People now have more information and even disinformation available at a click of a button, than could ever have been imagined a few years ago.

So that poses the question “how do we protect ourselves from disinformation”.

As an experiment we asked the free CHATGPT to write an article “Pain Management for Trigeminal Neuralgia”.  The following article was produced by the ChatBot.

Living with trigeminal neuralgia can be overwhelming, and individuals may require support at any time of the day. Chat AI GPT addresses this need by offering round-the-clock accessibility and support. Users can engage with the chatbot whenever they need assistance, ensuring that they have a reliable resource to turn to for guidance and information.
Collaboration with Healthcare While Chat AI GPT provides valuable insights and recommendations, it is important to note that it is not a substitute for professional medical advice. The chatbot encourages users to consult with healthcare professionals, such as neurologists or pain management specialists, for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan. Chat AI GPT can serve as a complementary tool, facilitating informed discussions between individuals and their healthcare providers.
Conclusion:Trigeminal neuralgia poses significant challenges for individuals seeking effective pain management strategies. The emergence of AI-powered chatbots, such as Chat AI GPT, offers a promising avenue for support and assistance. With its advanced technology, extensive knowledge base, and personalized approach, the chatbot aims to empower individuals with trigeminal neuralgia to explore various pain management options and improve their overall well-being. However, it is crucial to remember that the chatbot should be used in conjunction with professional medical advice to ensure comprehensive care.

The article infers that AI ChatBots can work individually with people to help them create an individual approach for their medical needs.  Imagine how many of our regional community could have instance access to individualised care.

The below research document addresses these options by reviewing current research

Using artificial intelligence to improve pain assessment and pain management: a scoping review

The technology is very new and is being applied to many sectors of society.  We believe it will have an important role in pain management, but caution our community to educate themselves about the validity of information found on the internet.

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Motivation and Chronic Pain

Dealing with motivation and chronic pain can feel absolutely overwhelming.  It is easy to start believing that you are at fault, that you are lazy or not worthy, especially when those thoughts of “why bother” are constantly in your head.

The good news though is, that there is science behind what you are feeling, and importantly it is not your fault, and reassuring, there are ways to gain some control.

May you make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.

How Chronic Illness Ruins Your Motivation (and what to do about it)

Study reveals brain mechanism behind chronic pain’s sapping of motivation

Mice suffering chronic pain undergo a change in brain circuitry that makes them less willing to work for a reward, even though they still want it.

July 31, 2014 – By Bruce Goldman

Robert Malenka and his colleagues found that chronic pain changed the brain circuitry in mice, making them less willing to work for rewards. Steve Fisch

Chronic pain is among the most abundant of all medical afflictions in the developed world. It differs from a short-term episode of pain not only in its duration, but also in triggering in its sufferers a psychic exhaustion best described by the question, “Why bother?”

A new study in mice, conducted by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has identified a set of changes in key parts of the brain that may explain chronic pain’s capacity to stifle motivation. The discovery could lead to entirely new classes of treatment for this damaging psychological consequence of chronic pain.

Many tens of millions of people in the United States suffer persistent pain due to diverse problems including migraines, arthritis, lower back pain, sports injuries, irritable bowel syndrome and shingles. For many of these conditions, there are no good treatments, and a crippling loss of mojo can result.

“With chronic pain, your whole life changes in a way that doesn’t happen with acute pain,” said Robert Malenka, MD, PhD, the Nancy Friend Pritzker Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the study’s senior author. “Yet this absence of motivation caused by chronic pain, which can continue even when the pain is transiently relieved, has been largely ignored by medical science.”

A series of experiments in mice by Malenka and his colleagues, described in a study published Aug. 1 in Science, showed that persistent pain causes changes in a set of nerve cells in a deep-brain structure known to be important in reward-seeking behavior: the pursuit of goals likely to yield pleasurable results. Malenka’s lab has been studying this brain structure, the nucleus accumbens, for two decades.

“We showed that those brain changes don’t go away when you transiently relieve the mice’s pain,” Malenka said. The experiments also indicated that the mice’s diminished motivation to perform reward-generating tasks didn’t stem from their pain’s rendering them incapable of experiencing pleasure or from any accompanying physical impairment, he said.

How pain and reward interact

“This study is important — to my knowledge, the first to explain how pain and reward interact. It begins to get to an understanding of why it’s such a struggle for people undergoing chronic pain to get through the day,” said Howard Fields, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology at the University of California-San Francisco and founder of that school’s pain management center.

Fields, who did not participate in the Malenka group’s study but wrote an accompanying perspective piece published simultaneously in Science, described the psychological effect of chronic pain as “the clouding of the future. There’s no escape from it. You want it to end, but it doesn’t.” As a result, people become pessimistic and irritable, he said. “People come to expect the next day is going to wind up being painful. It just takes the edge off of life’s little pleasures — and big pleasures, for that matter.”

The experiments were spearheaded by the study’s first author, Neil Schwartz, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in Malenka’s lab. “You can’t just ask a hungry mouse how motivated it is to pursue its heart’s desire,” Malenka said. “But there are ways of asking that mouse, ‘How hard are you willing to work for food?’”

Schwartz, Malenka and their associates looked at lab mice enduring chronic paw pain due either to persistent inflammation or to nerve damage. The mice also happened to be hungry. The scientists trained the mice to poke their noses into a hole to get a food pellet. At first, a single nose poke earned a pellet. But over time, the number of nose pokes required for a reward was increased. In essence, the researchers were asking these mice: How hard are you willing to work for food? Will you poke your nose into that hole once to satisfy your hunger? Ten times? Even 150 times?

Fading motivation

Within a week after the onset of chronic pain, the animals grew increasingly less likely to work hard for food than pain-free control animals were. The researchers next explored three possible explanations: Were the mice unable to work because their pain was too severe? Did something about being in pain cause them to not value the food reward as much? Or was their failure to seek food due simply to a lack of motivation? Additional tests showed that the mice had no movement problems. “Like other research groups, we found that they can scamper around just fine,” said Malenka. Also, when the mice were given free access to food, they ate just as much as the animals who weren’t in pain — so they still valued the food. But they were less willing to put in an effort to obtain food than mice who’d suffered no pain.

Moreover, the difference didn’t disappear even when the scientists relieved the mice’s pain with analgesics. “They were in demonstrably less pain, but they were still less willing to work,” Malenka said.

The Stanford scientists then focused on the nucleus accumbens, a brain structure known to be involved in computing the behavioral strategies that prompt us to seek or avoid things that can affect our survival. They found that chronic pain permanently changed certain connections to the nucleus accumbens, causing an enduring downshift in the excitation transmitted by them. Importantly, Malenka’s group showed that a particular brain chemical called galanin plays a critical role in this enduring suppression of nucleus accumbens excitability.

Galanin is a short signaling-protein snippet secreted by certain cells in various places in the brain. While its presence in the brain has been known for a good 60 years or so, galanin’s role is not well-defined and probably differs widely in different brain structures. There have been hints, though, that galanin activity might play a role in pain. For example, it’s been previously shown in animal models that galanin levels in the brain increase with the persistence of pain.

Possible therapies?

Schwartz, Malenka and their peers identified receptors for galanin on a set of nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and demonstrated that disabling galanin’s signaling via this receptor prevented the long-term suppression of motivation seen in mice — and people — with chronic pain. This suggests that therapeutic compounds with similar effects could someday be developed, although they would have to be carefully targeted so as to not disrupt galanin signaling in other important brain circuits.

“There’s no reason to think this finding won’t generalize to people,” said Fields of UCSF. “Our brains have galanin, and a nucleus accumbens, just as mouse brains do. However, before jumping from mice to humans it would be wise to test other animal species. If the same things happen in a non-rodent species that happen in mice, then it’s probable they happen in humans, too.”

The study was funded by a Banting postdoctoral fellowship and the National Institutes of Health (grant DA008227). Additional co-authors were postdoctoral scholars Paul Temkin, PhD, and Jai Polepalli, PhD; former postdoctoral scholars Sandra Jurado, PhD (now at the University of Maryland), and Byung Kook Lim, PhD (now at UC-San Diego); and anesthesiology instructor Boris Heifets, MD, PhD.

Information about Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which also supported this work, is available at www.psychiatry.stanford.edu/.

Bruce Goldman is a science writer for the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs.Bruce Goldman

Original Article

The following article was published on https://www.burningnightscrps.org/

Having the motivation to get up every day and face each new challenge can be incredibly difficult.

If you’ve found that you’ve been losing some motivation lately, or you’ve been struggling for quite a long time, read on to find out how you can continue to move forward one day at a time

Plan for the future

A lack of motivation can stem from feelings of helplessness, of uncertainty about the future, and a feeling that future rewards are not worth the current effort.

This can be a crippling feedback loop that can chip away at your mental health. If you are committed to motivating yourself and continuing to do positive actions for yourself, it’s important to be in touch with your feelings and recognise when you have great days, okay days, bad days, and particularly bad days.

In the latter times, your mind will be more prone to telling you that you’re not able to do this. Accept that like everyone, you will have good and bad days, and try to remain aware that the bad days will pass.

Allow yourself to reimagine a future of your own design. What does that look like? Map out what makes you happy. How can you find happiness in small ways every day?

looking forward to the future. It doesn’t have to be planning an international trip, it can be as simple as getting a bottle of wine at the weekend, meeting up with friends for an online call, or getting a good takeaway.

Factor in the difficult times

We might as well just say it as it is: on some days, having a chronic illness can make life unbearable. The concept of radical acceptance proposes that we make a step back from trying to fix or fight our problems and fully accept our experiences.

By coming to terms with the knowledge and understanding that you have a long term condition, we are better placed to tackle our issues head on.

This does not mean that we can’t advocate for ourselves or continue to search for ways to live meaningful lives. It simply means that we do not waste energy trying to change reality to suit our vision of what life ‘should’ be.

It’s also important to note that this would not necessarily apply to situations where pain management is a challenge. If you are suffering, you shouldn’t accept it simply because your care provider hasn’t been able to support you.

Factoring in the bad days along with the good will help you to get through the rollercoaster.

Plan, schedule, organise

When the pandemic hit, it was the first time for many people to find themselves stuck at home with limited opportunities to leave their home.

Many disability rights groups highlighted how many non-disabled people were experiencing this for the first time, but it was something that people with disabilities had been experiencing on a long-term basis without much recognition.

There were plenty of how-to articles and guides on how to cope with major changes to routines or advice for people who had suddenly been made redundant.

One of the key themes across these articles was to make plans and to keep to a daily schedule. This advice is really important for mental health and resilience skills.

Experts agree that finding ways to put purpose in your day is key to building good mental health. This could be as simple as preparing a healthy breakfast, making time to check in with friends or family, getting some form of exercise, or spending time being creative.

If you’re able to develop a bathing and grooming routine that works well for you, it can pay dividends for your overall motivation.

Making plans is an important way to keep looking forward to the future. It doesn’t have to be planning an international trip, it can be as simple as getting a bottle of wine at the weekend, meeting up with friends for an online call, or getting a good takeaway.

Be patient with yourself

Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated with yourself? Are you overly self-critical? Do you get impatient with yourself for not doing enough or not meeting your goals?

This is normal behaviour, but if left unchecked, it can be very detrimental to your mental health. Don’t allow yourself to slide down into feelings of consistent self-criticism because it can be very hard to stop yourself from getting stuck in these patterns of thought.

Imagine that you were speaking to a friend who is telling you some of the problems you were having. How would you react? Show yourself the kindness and compassion you would show to others and allow yourself the time that you need.

If you plan your day and you hope to get X, Y, and Z completed, but by the end you only get half of X done – give yourself a break. There’s no rulebook on how anyone should live their lives.

With the additional needs placed on people with CRPS it’s common to feel like you’re a burden on family, friends, or caregivers. Danielle (not her real name) told us how she felt that “CRPS just chips away at you.”

Practice gratitude

Studies show that people who actively practice gratitude and thankfulness in their daily lives have higher levels of motivation and wellbeing.

Being able to acknowledge the positives during adversity is important because it helps to put life in perspective.

Perhaps you are struggling with your chronic pain, but you are able to maintain a high level of independent mobility. Maybe you are finding managing your mental health difficult, but your pain levels are under control today.

Everything is relative in that you neither have the easiest nor the most difficult life. In order to build resilience and maintain high levels of motivation, practice gratitude by writing down lists of things you’re happy about.

As well as being thankful for what you have, give something back if you can. Why not volunteer  and help others in a similar situation?

Rely on your community

Never forget to reach out to people who care about you and those who know first-hand what it’s really like to suffer from a chronic illness.

Although it may feel like you’re on your own, reach out to access a wide network of people who can empathise, rant, rejoice, and share in your experiences.

https://www.burningnightscrps.org/support/news-and-blog/article/tips-to-stay-motivated-with-chronic-pain/

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Despite Pain Blog – Talking About Pain

We know there are thousands of people living with trigeminal neuralgia but often their voices go unheard.

However there are pain warriors who are gifted writers, and share their experiences so others may benefit.  Liz the creator of Despite Pain Blog writes about her life with the aim of providing encouragement, education and support and welcomes sharing her thoughts.

Welcome to Despite Pain

Thank you for visiting my blog. My name is Liz and I’ve been living with a few painful conditions for many years so I know first-hand what it’s like to live with chronic pain. You can find a bit more about me here.

 

Learning to Listen to Your Body When You’re in Pain

Liz slso posts to Instagram  Facebook and Pinterest

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Can Reiki Help Your Chronic Pain

Can Reiki Help Your Chronic Pain?  We are constantly looking for therapies which can help our community living with trigeminal neuralgia manage pain.

Reiki is a Japanese form of energy healing, a type of alternative medicine. Reiki practitioners use a technique called palm healing or hands-on healing through which a “universal energy” is said to be transferred through the palms of the practitioner to the patient in order to encourage emotional or physical healing

This ‘energy transfer technique’ may help to ease chronic pain when used as a complementary therapy.

Medically Reviewed

Chronic pain not only limits a person’s ability to work and enjoy leisure time, it’s also linked with anxiety, depression, and other health problems. Experts estimate that as many as one in five people live with chronic pain, which is defined as pain on most days lasting six months or longer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More and more people are choosing complementary health approaches such as acupuncture, massage, and Reiki to help manage pain. Complementary medicine usually refers to treatments that fall outside traditional Western medical care and are used alongside more conventional medical treatments.

A typical Reiki session is intended to guide energy throughout the body to encourage self-healing, and begins at the head or feet with light touch or even no touch, with the practitioner’s hands a few inches above the client’s body, according to the International Association of Reiki Professionals.

“Nobody knows exactly why it works, but it can be beneficial to people,” says Martay. “How effective it is is up to the patient. In my opinion, the patient is the healer; as practitioners, we can only offer treatment and see what comes out of it,” he says. While the clinical research evidence on efficacy is variable, Reiki is considered safe and has not been found to have adverse effects, according to the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing in Minneapolis.

How Can Reiki Address Chronic Pain?

Reiki can be used as a complementary therapy to treat different kinds of pain, including chronic pain, says Martha Lacy, MD, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a Reiki master. “I wouldn’t recommend Reiki instead of Western medicine, but I think it could be used as an adjunct or a complement to those therapies,” says Dr. Lacy.

“Chronic pain is a complicated issue. There is the anatomical physical aspect and then there is the emotional one,” says Martay. Of the five pain centers located in the brain, two of them are located in the limbic system of the brain, he says. “The limbic system is where emotions are processed, and that makes a tight connection between pain and emotions,” says Martay. Reiki can potentially address that aspect of chronic pain for some people, he says.

Reiki can’t be used to change what is basically an anatomical problem, says Martay. “For example, if somebody has chronic back pain and we look at the MRI and see that there is an eroded disc — there’s an anatomical problem; you can’t improve or change that aspect with Reiki. Reiki works more on the emotional level by calming people down,” he says.

Studying Reiki Proves Challenging for Researchers

Although there isn’t an abundance of studies to show Reiki’s impact on chronic pain, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t effective; the dearth of evidence could also be due, at least in part, to the difficulty in recruiting people and executing studies for the therapy.

To prove the benefits of Reiki in a randomized controlled clinical trial, researchers need to include an arm where “sham” Reiki is performed. Sham Reiki is typically performed by an actor or a person who isn’t trained in Reiki and doesn’t believe in the concept of biofield energy, that there is a field of vibrational energy surrounding and affecting the body.

Recruiting enough participants for these trials can be challenging, according to the authors of a Reiki meta-analysis published in December 2014 in Pain Management Nursing. It took some studies up to two years to gather just 24 subjects because participants refused to be in the trial unless they could be placed in the Reiki group rather than the sham group.

The meta-analysis did find that although the number of studies is limited, there is evidence to suggest that Reiki may be effective for pain and anxiety. The authors believed that there might have been improved findings if trials had lasted longer — some studies lasted less than a week.

Is There Evidence for Using Reiki in Treating Chronic Pain?

Authors of a review published in October 2017 in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine see below speculate that Reiki may trigger the vagus nerve to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls mood, digestion, heart rate, and even the perception of pain.

The authors of that review analyzed two studies that looked at Reiki as an adjunct treatment to help with acute or chronic conditions and concluded that there was “strong evidence for Reiki being more effective than placebo, suggesting that Reiki attunement leads to a quantifiable increase in healing ability.”

In Martay’s experience, there are times when Reiki can be effective, not necessarily in the ways the patient was seeking, but rather where the patient’s body felt that it was needed. “We had a woman come in with severe arthritis in her knees. The patient was in physical rehabilitation and came to Reiki sessions, but her knees didn’t improve. However, she had suffered from constipation for many years and that disappeared. The patient attributed that improvement, at least in part, to Reiki,” says Martay. In Reiki, the body may take the energy to another part of itself other than where you intended it to go, he adds.

Can Reiki Help With Neuropathy Pain?

Research is limited on Reiki’s benefits for neuropathy, the nerve damage that can result from diabetes among other causes. A study published in Diabetes Care compared Reiki, sham Reiki, and usual care for people with painful diabetic neuropathy. Investigators found that after 12 weeks of treatments there was no difference in the perception of pain or improvements in walking distance between the groups that received real Reiki and sham Reiki.

Reiki can sometimes provide pain relief in neuropathy, though how long that relief lasts may vary from person to person, says Martay. “Often when people try a therapy like Reiki they have usually gone through a plethora of orthodox medicine, and this may be their last hope,” he says. “I’ve seen people who this has helped, and they were happy with the incremental benefits,” he says.

How to Prepare for a Reiki Session

If you decide to try Reiki, wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothes to your first session; you’ll remain fully clothed throughout the process. In most cases, you will be semi- or fully reclined on a massage table.

Martay suggests that the best preparation for your first Reiki session is none at all. “Come completely unprepared, because then you have no expectations,” he says. “The first session is often the most successful one for the patient for this very reason; whatever happens, happens. Sometimes it’s best to have no preconceived ideas, then there are no barriers in the way.”Reiki

 2017 Oct; 22(4): 1051–1057.
Published online 2017 Sep 5. doi: 10.1177/2156587217728644
PMCID: PMC5871310
PMID: 28874060

Reiki Is Better Than Placebo and Has Broad Potential as a Complementary Health Therapy

Abstract

This study reviews the available clinical studies of Reiki to determine whether there is evidence for Reiki providing more than just a placebo effect. The available English-language literature of Reiki was reviewed, specifically for peer-reviewed clinical studies with more than 20 participants in the Reiki treatment arm, controlling for a placebo effect. Of the 13 suitable studies, 8 demonstrated Reiki being more effective than placebo, 4 found no difference but had questionable statistical resolving power, and only one provided clear evidence for not providing benefit. Viewed collectively, these studies provide reasonably strong support for Reiki being more effective than placebo. From the information currently available, Reiki is a safe and gentle “complementary” therapy that activates the parasympathetic nervous system to heal body and mind. It has potential for broader use in management of chronic health conditions, and possibly in postoperative recovery. Research is needed to optimize the delivery of Reiki.

Keywords: Reiki, clinical studies, placebo effect, parasympathetic nervous system, complementary health therapy, chronic health conditions, postoperative recovery

Reiki is one of the more popular complementary modalities used by Australians to manage their health conditions, There is little data available on how widely Reiki is used in Australia, but information gleaned from public sources indicates that it is being employed with good effect in some hospitals, cancer support centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and in palliative care. At the Oncology-Haematology Unit at Bega Valley Health Services, Reiki sessions are provided by Jennifer Ahrens, who reported,

Patients and carer responses noticeably referred to their fear and anxiety during a time of diagnosis of cancer and follow-up treatments. Most patients are grateful that the hospital provides this service, which they report as bringing diverse benefits, particularly on an emotional level and one that is personally supportive as they negotiate a stressful and traumatic period with less fear, anxiety or depression.(p19)

Reiki is not an alternative to allopathic medicine—it is a “complementary” therapy that can be implemented alongside all other medical and therapeutic techniques. It is a gentle technique that is suitable for even very fragile patients, so it is accepted widely in hospitals and hospices around the world. The profound relaxation produced by Reiki has been anecdotally reported to alleviate anxiety and stress, the perception of pain, and to promote a feeling of psycho-spiritual well-being.

Reiki was developed by Mikao Usui in Japan in the 1920s. It is a relaxing form of healing therapy that is applied through noninvasive, non-manipulative gentle touch. Reiki involves lightly laying of hands just above or on the clothed body, working over the front and back in a slow progression of hand positions. Reiki has no religious doctrine and is accepted by people from all backgrounds and belief systems.

One of the key defining features of Reiki is that the ability to practice is conferred through an “attunement” process and is not dependent on any innate personal healing capability. Attunement is done by a Reiki master, through a series of rituals that are said to open the energy channels of the body. Attunement to first-degree Reiki (Reiki I) confers the ability to treat oneself and others by touch. Attunement to second-degree Reiki (Reiki II) confers the ability to use specific symbols to access Reiki mentally for distant healing. Attunement to third-degree Reiki (Reiki III), or master level, confers the ability to attune others into Reiki. At each level, the ability to effectively heal with Reiki develops progressively through committed practice.

Understandably, the ability to confer special healing abilities through an attunement ritual is regarded with skepticism by many people. It could be argued that any health benefits of Reiki are nothing more than a placebo effect and that the same benefits could be achieved without attunement.

Reviews of Reiki clinical trials have been published by Lee et al, vanderVaart et al, and by Baldwin et al. In summary, these reviewers found that Reiki had some promise in the areas of pain, relaxation, and anxiety management, but there was a need for further experiments with greater numbers of subjects to allow statistically meaningful interpretation.

In recent years, there have been many new publications on Reiki trials, but these have not been subject to review. The present study was undertaken to review the available clinical studies of Reiki to determine whether there is evidence for Reiki providing more than just a placebo effect.

Methods

Four selection criteria were applied to Reiki studies for inclusion in this review. First, only studies of hands-on Reiki were considered. While distance healing is considered to be a valid Reiki technique, there are currently too few published studies to draw statistical conclusions.

Second, only quantitative studies including a “sham Reiki” placebo control were considered. Sham Reiki involves an actor mimicking the hand positions and other procedures used by the attuned Reiki practitioner. It is intended to serve as a placebo control, in which the only significant experimental variable is whether or not the practitioner has received a Reiki attunement.

Third, this review only includes reports published in peer-reviewed journals, thereby excluding master’s and PhD theses. The rationale for this is that the methods and results in published articles have survived screening and evaluation by peer review, whereas master’s and PhD theses have not.

Fourth, this review only includes studies involving 20 or more participants in the Reiki treatment arm. A criticism raised in previous reviews is that many studies were flawed by the use of too few experimental subjects, making them incapable of reaching statistically significant conclusions. The inclusion of studies with 20 or more participants helps ensure that the conclusions are statistically robust.

The exception to this criterion is the inclusion of 2 studies that used laboratory rats as experimental recipients of Reiki., These were rigorously conducted studies that collected “hard” evidence through microscopic tissue examination and implanted telemetric transmitters, with care taken to ensure statistically significant outcomes. These are regarded as highly significant studies because they prelude the possibility of a psychological placebo effect. Even so, a sham Reiki placebo control was used in each study.

Identification of English-language Reiki studies was done by undertaking a Google Scholar search using a variety of key words, repeated over a period of more than 3 months. In addition, the reference lists of identified articles were also scrutinized, to help identify any additional references. Full copies of all identified publications were obtained, to ensure that experimental details were correctly understood. Only the publications meeting all of the selection criteria were included in this review.

Results

There were 13 peer-reviewed studies published between 1998 and 2016 that met all of the selection criteria. There were 4 randomized single-blind studies and 7 randomized double-blind studies with human participants, and 2 studies using rats. The studies included both pilot studies and clinical trials, looking at both short-term and long-term application of Reiki.

To assist in the interpretation of these data, the selected studies can be grouped into 4 categories:

  1. Physiological responses to Reiki
  2. Use of Reiki as a complementary therapy for a chronic condition
  3. Use of Reiki as a treatment for a chronic condition
  4. Use of Reiki as a complementary therapy for an acute condition

Physiological Responses to Reiki

Witte and Dundes conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study using university student volunteers to measure objectively the effect of Reiki on physical and mental relaxation. Reiki was provided by a Reiki I practitioner over a period of 20 minutes, involving 4 hand positions on head, neck, and upper torso of a seated participant. Four treatment arms were used, each with 25 participants: Reiki, sham Reiki placebo, a control group relaxing and listening to a meditation tape, and a control group listening to calming music. It was found that Reiki was more effective than placebo, music, or meditation for inducing physical relaxation, but there was no difference between groups for mental relaxation.

Baldwin and Schwartz investigated whether application of Reiki could reduce the deleterious effects of noise-induced stress in rats. Loud noise can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in the mesentery of rats, so the extent of microvascular damage can provide a quantitative measure of the level of stress experienced by the animals. The experiments involved 3 treatment arms: (1) noise + Reiki (n = 4), (2) noise + sham Reiki (n = 4), and (3) noise-only control (n = 4). Reiki or sham Reiki were provided to the caged rats for 15 minutes per day over 21 days. The experiment was replicated 3 times, and then again using different Reiki practitioners. It was found that the extent of stress-associated microvascular damage for noise + Reiki was significantly less than that for noise + sham Reiki or the noise-only control.

Baldwin et al extended their earlier study to investigate whether Reiki can reduce the heart rate and blood pressure of noise-stressed rats. The rats were fitted with implantable telemetric transmitters to provide accurate physiological data. The same procedure was used as before, with 3 rats in each treatment arm and Reiki or sham Reiki provided for 15 minutes per day over 5 days. It was found that Reiki, but not sham Reiki, significantly reduced both the average resting heart rate and the rise in heart rate produced by exposure of rats to loud noise. However, neither Reiki nor sham Reiki significantly affected mean arterial pressure.

Díaz-Rodríguez et al employed a randomized, single-blind, placebo controlled, crossover design pilot study to investigate the physiological effects of Reiki in health care professionals with burnout syndrome. The study involved 21 participants receiving either Reiki or sham Reiki placebo, with heart rate variability, body temperature, salivary flow rate, and salivary cortisol levels measured both pre- and posttreatment. Reiki was provided by a practitioner with 15 years of experience, involving a 30-minute session covering the head, eyes, ears, and chest. It was found that a single session of Reiki increased heart rate variability and body temperature but not salivary cortisol levels, indicating that Reiki shifts the autonomic balance toward parasympathetic dominance.

Salles et al investigated the effect of Reiki on abnormal blood pressure using a randomized, cross-sectional, descriptive, and double-blind clinical trial. Hypertensive patients were randomized to 1 of 3 treatment arms: (1) Reiki (n = 22), (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 22), or (3) rest control (n = 22). Reiki was provided as a single 20-minute session (no details provided). It was observed that blood pressure decreased in each of the 3 groups, with statistically significant differences between each group. The Reiki group had the greatest reduction in blood pressure, followed by the placebo and the control group.

All 5 of these studies provide evidence that Reiki is better than placebo for inducing a physically relaxed state. This appears to be an objective fact, given that it has been replicated in both humans and rats. Physiological measurements indicate that Reiki is more effective than placebo in reducing resting heart rate, increasing heart rate variability, and reducing blood pressure. These results indicate that Reiki is more effective than placebo in activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Reiki as a Complementary Therapy for Chronic Conditions

Dressen and Singg investigated the potential benefits of Reiki for patients with a variety of chronic illnesses. This randomized, single-blind, placebo controlled pilot study involved 4 treatment arms: (1) Reiki (n = 30), (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 30), (3) progressive muscle relaxation (n = 30), and (4) rest control (n = 30). Reiki was provided by 4 Reiki masters as 30-minute sessions covering the full body of a recumbent participant, given 2 times per week for 5 weeks. It was found that Reiki was more effective than the other treatments for reducing pain, depression, and state anxiety in chronically ill patients. Reiki was also found to cause desirable changes in personality, including reduced trait anxiety, enhancement of self-esteem, a shift toward internal locus of control, and toward a realistic sense of personal control.

Catlin and Taylor-Ford investigated whether provision of Reiki therapy during outpatient chemotherapy is associated with increased comfort and well-being. This was a double-blind, randomized clinical controlled trial with 3 treatment arms: (1) Reiki (n = 63), (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 63), and (3) standard care (n = 63). A Reiki master nurse provided a single Reiki session of 20 minutes duration (no details provided). It was found that participants in both the Reiki and sham Reiki placebo groups showed improvement in pre- and postcomfort and well-being outcomes, while those in the standard care groups showed no differences in well-being or comfort. The researchers concluded that Reiki was no better than sham Reiki and that the attentive presence of a designated nurse at the bedside was more important for patient well-being and comfort than the delivery of Reiki.

Erdogan and Cinar evaluated the effect of Reiki on depression in elderly persons living in nursing homes using a randomized, single-blinded pilot study with 3 treatment arms: (1) Reiki (n = 30), (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 30), and (3) control (n = 30). Reiki was applied to the experimental group by a Reiki master for 8 weeks, once a week for 45 to 60 minutes. Sham Reiki was applied by 4 nurses who did not have Reiki training but thought that they were practicing Reiki. The control group had no intervention. The researchers observed a statistically significant decrease in depression levels for the Reiki group on the 4th, 8th, and 12th weeks. No significant decrease in depression scores were found for the sham Reiki or control groups. There was no significant difference in the depression scores between the sham reiki and control groups. This study indicated that Reiki might be effective for reducing depression in elderly persons living in nursing homes.

Alarcão and Fonseca employed a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study with a cross-sectional design to investigate the effects of Reiki on the quality of life of blood cancer patients. The study involved 2 treatment groups: (1) Reiki (n = 58) and (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 42). Reiki (by Reiki masters) or sham Reiki treatment was provided in 60-minute sessions, twice a week for 4 weeks. Patient responses were assessed using the WHOQoL-Bref, an abbreviated generic Quality of Life Scale. It was found that the Reiki group showed significantly more improvements in the general, physical, environmental, and social dimensions of the WHOQoL-Bref. They generally felt better about themselves, their physical condition, and their relationships with their environment and other people.

Each of these studies investigated a particular aspect of how Reiki may be employed as a complementary therapy in the management of chronic conditions. In 3 of these 4 studies, Reiki was applied repeatedly over an extended period, with 1 or 2 sessions per week over a period of up to 8 weeks. In these 3 studies, Reiki was found to be more effective than placebo, resulting in reduced anxiety and depression, and improved self-esteem and quality of life.

Only one of the studies did not find a significant difference between Reiki and placebo. Interestingly, this was the only study that utilized Reiki as a one-off, short-duration intervention, to improve patient comfort and well-being during chemotherapy. Interpretation of this study outcome is difficult because the trial did not include a “usual treatment” control, which would have provided insight into the sensitivity of the instruments used to measure “comfort” and “well-being.”

Reiki as an Adjunctive Treatment for Chronic Conditions

Gillespie et al investigated the efficacy of Reiki for alleviating pain and for improving mobility and quality of life in patients with type 2 diabetes and painful diabetic neuropathy. This was a randomized, semidouble-blind, placebo-controlled, 12-week clinical trial involving 3 treatment arms: (1) Reiki (n = 93), (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 88), and (3) usual care control (n = 26). Reiki was provided by 2 experienced practitioners who provided 2 sessions in the first week, followed by weekly sessions over 12 weeks. Patients were recumbent during each 25-minute session. The researchers found that global pain scores and walking distance improved in both the Reiki and placebo groups. However, there were no significant differences between groups at the final visit. The researchers noted that the pain scores were relatively low in all groups, with high variability, which reduced the power to detect a statistically significant difference between treatments.

Assefi et al conducted a clinical trial to determine whether Reiki can be beneficial as an adjunctive treatment for fibromyalgia. The trial was factorial designed, randomized, double-blinded, and sham-controlled, with 2 treatment arms: (1) Reiki (n = 25) and (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 25). Reiki was provided by 3 experienced Reiki masters using two 30-minute sessions weekly for 8 weeks to recumbent participants. The trial results showed that neither of the treatments improved the pain, fatigue, well-being, or physical and mental functioning of patients with fibromyalgia. These researchers concluded that adults with fibromyalgia are unlikely to benefit from Reiki.

Both of these studies evaluated the potential of Reiki to relieve the pain of painful diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia, which are difficult conditions to manage with allopathic medicine. In the trial by Gillespie et al, both Reiki and placebo showed some promise for relieving the pain of painful diabetic neuropathy, but the experiment did not have sufficient statistical power to detect a significant difference between treatments. In the trial by Assefi et al, neither Reiki nor placebo was able to relieve the pain of fibromyalgia or the resulting fatigue and reduced well-being, indicating that Reiki is not a potential cure for this recalcitrant and difficult condition.

Reiki as a Complementary Therapy in Acute Settings

Bourque et al undertook a randomized, double-blinded pilot study to determine whether the use of Reiki decreases the amount of analgesics administered to patients undergoing screening colonoscopy. The trial included 3 treatment arms: (1) Reiki (n = 25), (2) sham Reiki placebo (n = 5), and (3) retrospective chart review of prior patients as the control (n = 30). A Reiki master provided a 10-minute Reiki treatment simultaneously with intravenous administration of midazolam (a sedative), prior to the colonoscopic procedure. During colonoscopy, meperidine (an analgesic) was administered to the conscious patient, depending on the level of pain experienced. The trial results indicated no statistically significant difference in meperidine administration between the patients in the control and Reiki groups. The researchers noted that the study would have been enhanced by having a pain scale to determine the amount of meperidine to be administered to the patients. It was observed that patients displayed a calmer demeanor after screening colonoscopy with Reiki.

Kundu et al investigated the potential benefits of Reiki as an adjuvant to opioid therapy for postoperative oral pain control in pediatric patients. In this double-blind, randomized clinical trial, children aged 9 months to 4 years who were scheduled for elective dental work or for palatoplasty surgery were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: (1) preoperative Reiki (n = 20) or (2) preoperative sham Reiki control (n = 18). Reiki was provided by a Reiki master for 20 to 30 minutes (details not provided). It was reported that there was no evidence of benefit from a single session of preoperative Reiki in terms of reducing pain intensity, analgesic requirements, incidence of side effects, or perioperative family satisfaction.

In both of these trials, Reiki was not found to be more effective than placebo for reducing acute pain during medical procedures. In both cases, however, it is unclear whether the design of the experiments provided sufficient statistical power to reach a firm conclusion. Bourque et al stated that the experiment could have been improved by using a pain scale to help calibrate the amount of analgesic administered. Kundu et al used the Face, Legs, Activity, Cry, Consolability (FLACC) pain scale, which is appropriate for determining the dosage of postsurgery analgesic for young children, but its statistical resolving power is not well defined.

Discussion

This review identified 13 placebo-controlled studies of Reiki that included at least 20 participants in the Reiki treatment arm, of which 8 found that Reiki was more effective than placebo.,, There were 4 studies that found no difference between Reiki and placebo, but this could be attributed to a lack of statistical resolving power of the experiments.,,, In one study in which Reiki was not better than placebo, involving patients with fibromyalgia, neither Reiki nor the placebo had any beneficial effect.

Viewed collectively, these studies provide reasonably strong support for Reiki being more effective than placebo. Two of the studies were conducted with rats and produced clear, objective evidence of a benefit of Reiki over placebo. This suggests that there is some merit to the claim that Reiki “attunement” imparts an extra healing capacity to the recipient. Although there is currently no scientific explanation for this, the clinical trial evidence is compelling. Further research is warranted to better understand this phenomenon.

Reiki has been shown to be better than placebo for inducing a state of relaxation., Physiologically, this means that Reiki is effective in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, quantitatively measured as reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and increased heart rate variability. The parasympathetic nervous system is one branch of the autonomic nervous system, the other branch being the sympathetic nervous system. In a healthy individual, the activity of the 2 branches can be rapidly modulated in response to changing environmental demands, but overall are maintained in a state of dynamic balance, or homeostasis. This regulatory process is primarily mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system via the vagus nerve.

It is known that the vagus nerve plays a vital role in mediating the mutual interactions between the brain and the body. According to the neurovisceral integration model, the vagus nerve plays a key role in processes that regulate the health of the body, including inflammatory responses, glucose regulation, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function. In each of these processes, the regulatory role of the vagus nerve is thought to be associated with its function as part of the “inflammatory reflex.”

According to the polyvagal theory, the autonomic nervous system is the neurophysiological substrate for emotional expression and contingent social behavior. The perception of pain, like other emotions, is an affective state that is governed by the autonomic nervous system. Chronic pain is associated with dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system and reduced heart rate variability. Increased heart rate variability indicates a greater capacity of the autonomic nervous system for affect regulation and reduced pain sensitivity.,

A compromised autonomic nervous system, as characterized by reduced heart rate variability, is associated with cognitive and affective dysregulation, and psychological inflexibility, which are major psychological risk factors for psychopathologies such as chronic anxiety and depression. Conversely, increased heart rate variability is associated with better regulation of emotional responses, better coping strategies, more positive emotions, and increased social connectedness, supporting an “upward spiral” in social and psychological well-being.,

Thus, the vagus nerve plays a vital role in mediating both physical and mental health. Artificial stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system via the vagus nerve has been shown to reduce the perception of pain, reduce depression, and improve mood and quality of life.

For patients with chronic health conditions, Reiki has been found to be more effective than placebo for reducing pain and anxiety, depression, and for improving self-esteem and quality of life. It seems likely that these effects are the result of Reiki’s ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and increase heart rate variability, which can be understood in terms of the neurovisceral integration model and the polyvagal theory.

As a safe and gentle way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system via deep relaxation, Reiki has the potential to provide valuable support for a broad range of chronic health conditions. Research to date does not suggest that Reiki can cure any health condition, so it is not appropriate to regard Reiki as an alternative to allopathic medicine. Instead, Reiki should be regarded as a useful complement to conventional practices, especially for chronic illnesses where the use of drugs offers little benefit.

Previous research has provided evidence to suggest that Reiki may be a useful complementary therapy in acute settings. For example, the effectiveness of Reiki as an aid to recovery after major surgical procedures has been tested in an Indian hospital. Reiki was provided for 7 days after surgical procedures such as laparotomy, gastrectomy, hysterectomy, cholecystectomy, mastectomy, and general abdominal surgeries. Reiki was found to improve the vital signs (temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and pain), hence the prospects for better recovery and to reduce anxiety and depression. Also, Reiki has been found to significantly reduce pain and the need for analgesics following total knee arthroscopy and delivery by Caesarean section., Such results are potentially significant, because it has been shown that high preoperative anxiety and depression and its persistence during the postoperative period leads to a higher morbidity and mortality rate. Reiki could potentially play a complementary role in acute surgical procedures, to reduce the risk and cost of postoperative complications.

However, in the 2 placebo-controlled trials considered in this review,, Reiki was not found to be more effective than placebo for reducing acute pain during medical procedures. A possible reason for this is that, in these 2 trials, Reiki was provided for a short period (10-30 minutes) prior to the procedure. In contrast, in the trials that reported success, Reiki was provided for a number of days post procedure, that is, for 2,, 3, or 7 consecutive days.

No research has been conducted to evaluate the optimum duration of a Reiki session, or the optimum number of sessions that should be provided. Typically, a Reiki practitioner would recommend the use of 3 sessions as a starting point, regarding more Reiki as being better than less. The optimum amount is likely to be different for each condition, and possibly each person, so this could be a significant source of experimental variation that has not yet been taken into account. Since Reiki has been shown to have a significant effect on measurable physiological variables such as heart rate variability, it is recommended that research be undertaken to investigate whether the effect of Reiki on heart rate variability has only a transient or lasting benefit, and whether multiple Reiki sessions over an extended period of time have a cumulative effect.

Conclusion

Reiki is a safe, gentle, and profoundly relaxing healing modality that can be practiced by anyone who has received an “attunement” from a Reiki master. This review has found reasonably strong evidence for Reiki being more effective than placebo, suggesting that Reiki attunement leads to a quantifiable increase in healing ability.

Reiki is better than placebo in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, as measured by reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and increased heart rate variability. For patients with chronic health conditions, Reiki has been found to be more effective than placebo for reducing pain, anxiety, and depression, and for improving self-esteem and quality of life. According to the neuro visceral integration model and the polyvagal theory, these effects are due to higher parasympathetic nervous system activity, mediated via the vagus nerve.

This understanding suggests that Reiki has the potential to provide valuable support for a broad range of chronic health conditions. However, there is no justification to regard Reiki as a cure for any health condition. Instead, Reiki should be regarded as a complementary therapy that can be implemented alongside all other medical and therapeutic techniques.

Further research is recommended to help optimize the application of Reiki for specific health conditions and to examine the benefits arising from provision of multiple Reiki sessions over an extended period of time.

Acknowledgments

The author wishes to acknowledge the guidance and wisdom of his Reiki masters, Elizabeth and Robert Thuan, who are dedicated to professionalizing the practice of Reiki. The author is grateful for the support of fellow members of the committee of management of the Australasian Usui Reiki Association, who are dedicated to letting the love of Reiki shine in the world.

Footnotes

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Funding: The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

ORCID iD: David E. McManus, PhD http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0041-8365

Ethical Approval: Ethical approval was not needed for the research published in this review article.

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Articles from Journal of Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Medicine are provided here courtesy of SAGE Publication 
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Should You Stop Talking About Your Pain?

Should You Stop Talking About Your Pain?

Getting pain under control starts by talking about it differently—and less.

Posted April 9, 2021 Reviewed by Devon Frye

KEY POINTS

  • The language we use in both words and thoughts plays a key role in how the brain processes information and produces pain.
  • We often mistake symptoms that occur when the brain senses a threat—including pain—for a disease or disorder.
  • Healthcare providers unknowingly can increase a person’s concern about their health and well-being by using alarmist or hopeless language.
  • Reducing the sense of threat in the brain—and thus the pain itself—can start by simply changing how people talk about pain.

We love to share our struggles with others, get support, and feel understood. That is a good thing, right?

It depends. Talking about pain keeps pain at the center of our attention, which in turn keeps our brain in threat mode. When the brain senses a threat, increased pain may be the result. Luckily, this downward cycle toward pain can easily be stopped.

Why Pain Education Matters

A central part of pain rehabilitation is providing education to pain patients and their families. Chronic pain not only impacts the individual who is hurting, but it also impacts family, friends, and coworkers as well.

Most people share common misunderstandings about chronic pain—they picture that an injury, mechanical problem, or disorder has taken over a person’s life and is producing unmanageable pain. This misconception leads to a great deal of “pain talk.”

Chronic pain sufferers often talk about their pain levels, latest injections, doctor visits, and surgeries. Friends and family ask about sleep problems, medications, treatments, and therapies. Everyone feels bad that so little can be done to manage pain and worries about the wellbeing of the pain sufferer. This is understandable but not helpful.

What “Pain Talk” Does to the Brain

Pain neuroscience education begins by helping people understand the role of language in how the brain processes information and produces pain. As our brain monitors our peripheral nervous system, it is collecting evidence for danger and evidence of safety. The brain weighs available evidence to determine if there is truly a threat that requires it to produce a protective response.

The brain’s protective response might be pain, but it could be any number of rsponses. Common ways the brain says, “Something is wrong,” might be a tremor, non-epileptic seizure, stomachache, headache, dizziness, hives, nausea, blurred vision, muscle tightness, heart palpitation, chest pain, or a muscle twitch.

We often mistake symptoms that occur when the brain senses a threat for a disease or disorder. Chronic pain is often the result of an overactive nervous system that is constantly sensing a threat and producing pain even though pain would provide no help or protection. Chronic pain is thus not necessarily a disease or disorder that can be treated directly with medical intervention.

Healthcare providers unknowingly can increase a person’s concern about their health and well-being by the language that they use when talking with patients. Here are some common medical statements our brain would use as evidence for danger:

  • Your MRI is abnormal.
  • This is the worst case I have ever seen.
  • I am surprised you can still walk.
  • Strong medication hardly seems to touch your pain.
  • You have degenerative disc disease.
  • Your mother had the same problem. It runs in your family.
  • You are going to eventually need more surgery.
  • You need to start using a cane or walker to get around.

These statements are viewed by the brain as evidence for danger. When people have chronic pain, their brain lacks a good collection of credible evidence for safety. They have few reasons to believe that they should not be in pain, few reasons to believe that movement doesn’t cause harm, and few reasons to believe they can learn to manage their pain effectively.

How to Change the Conversation Around Pain

Reducing the sense of threat in the brain can start by simply changing how people talk about pain. The goal of changing how we talk about pain is to get our attention off pain and on to the direction we want to be moving with our life despite pain.

James Hudson, M.D., a chronic pain specialist, provides new chronic pain patients with two simple instructions written out on his prescription pad. He wants pain patients to change how they talk and how they think about pain.

The first prescription is simple: “Stop talking about pain.” People ask pain sufferers about pain all the time, but the pain patient needs to learn to redirect questions to focus on other aspects of life. They might say, “Thanks for asking. I’d rather not talk about pain anymore. I’d be happy to tell you what I have planned for this week.”

The second prescription is similar: “Stop exaggerating about your pain to others or even when talking to yourself.” We often use extreme language when referring to pain, such as, “This pain is killing me,” or “My pain is at a level 12 out of 10 right now.” This type of language only reinforces the idea that there is an extreme threat; when the brain senses there is a threat, it will often protect you by producing more pain.

When patients bring these two instructions home, it takes a while to retrain friends, family, and coworkers. Friends and family are often anxious and worried, which is why they ask about pain. But if the topic of conversation changes, the results are often dramatic. After years of starting conversations focused on their pain, pain patients begin to talk about things that are meaningful, hopeful, and enjoyable. They focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.

As minor as these changes may seem, the language we use every day affects how the brain views and produces pain. You can start today by telling your friends and family that you appreciate their concern, but it’s time to start a new conversation, one that is focused on growth, hope, and a better future.

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Podcast – Pain and Executive Function How To Get Things Done

This podcast produced by Deanna Tsiapalis from Pain2Possibilities titled “Pain and Executive Function how to get things done“, describes how the brain can prevent you from completing tasks and to feel motivated which increases stress.  Our community living with chronic pain, often blame themselves for not achieving what they had hoped, be that small daily tasks or a much bigger picture.

This podcasts discusses the science behind these blocks and offers practical solutions.

Executive functioning is the ability to get things done, to control our focus and to manage our emotions.

For years now, research has shown that pain is processed in many parts of the brain including the area of the brain responsible for executive functioning.

So if you have ever felt:

✅ difficulty in controlling your emotions

✅ difficulty focusing on anything other than the pain

✅ difficulty getting inspired/motivated to get things done

✅ Overwhelmed

You are not alone!

When the brain is processing pain, focusing on the pain and all the difficult emotions that go along with it like…

👉 anxiety, depression, fear, anger, overwhelm

it leaves little to no energy/resources left to do all the other, life giving things like…

👉 joy, optimism, contentment, setting goals and achieving them, core values (so much more I could add here)

Good news is, there is hope..

Pain And Executive Functioning – How To Get Things Done

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Podcast – What Do Patients Value About Pain

Welcome back to the Healing Pain Podcast with Hayley Leake, PT, PhD

In this episode, we’re talking about pain education and specifically asking the question, “What do patients value learning about pain?” Our expert guest is physiotherapist and pain researcher Hayley Leake. After working clinically for six years, Hayley embarked on a PhD mission at the University of South Australia with Professor Lorimer Moseley’s research group. Her research aims to optimize pain education for adolescents and adults living with chronic pain.

Pain education is a popular treatment approach for treating persistent pain that involves learning a variety of concepts related to pain and is thought to be an important part of recovery. In this episode, we discussed targeted concepts and themes that seem to be the most important of value to those living with chronic pain when delivering a pain education intervention. Without further ado, let’s begin and meet Physiotherapist and Pain Researcher, Hayley Leake.

What Do Patients Value About Pain? With Hayley Leake, PT, PhD

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At The Crossroads Of Grief And Pain

podcast

At The Crossroads Of Grief And Pain created by Pain 2 Possibilities

July 5, 2023 – Deana Tsiapalis

Life with chronic pain often leaves you with a deep sense of grief though the loss of limb or the loss of the life you once had, having to relearn as you navigate the world around you while adapting to the changes you are left to deal with often with little to no guidance.

Grief is the normal and natural response to loss and loss comes in many forms. When it comes to chronic pain, these are just some of the losses our community experiences:

👉 Loss of mobility
👉 loss of control
👉 loss of identity
👉 loss of purpose
👉 loss of meaningful relationships
👉 loss of living their values
👉 Loss of safety
👉 Loss of the life they once knew
👉 Financial losses, employment and career losses
and worst of all…
Loss of hope.

In this episode we’ll delve into the key components of grief as it relates to the chronic pain experience. Join us as we explore the interconnections and commonalities between the two as we offer insights and tools to inspire those who are doing their very best to navigate the crossroads of chronic pain and grief.

Listen Here

 

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ACI Pain Management Network

We are constantly searching to websites that provide chronic pain management support.  The following information is from the ACI (agency for clinical innovation) Pain Management network which is an initiative of NSW Government Health Department .

The website provides advice and support for people living with chronic pain

Welcome to the ACI Pain Management Network

This website is designed to help you gain a better understanding of your pain. The site contains information to enable you to develop skills and knowledge in the self management of your pain in partnership with your healthcare providers.

https://aci.health.nsw.gov.au/chronic-pain

 

Self help

Resources and support

These organisations provide specialist information and support services for people who are looking for effective and safe ways to manage long-term pain:

 

 

 

Donation

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