2 Chronic pain treatments that ease chronic pain without medication

chronic pain treatments

If you have fibromyalgia, then you are no stranger to chronic pain. But there are millions of people in the world living with chronic pain who don’t have fibro too. In this segment, we want to address various therapies used to treat this frustrating and debilitating condition. Not medications, not nutrition or supplements, but therapies. The Mayo Clinic suggests several, but for now we are only going to tackle two chronic pain treatments: biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Chronic pain treatments

Treating Chronic Pain with Biofeedback

First of all, what is biofeedback? Well, in short, it’s a way to use your mind to become aware of the processes happening in your body. No, it’s not magic or voodoo. Rather, it’s about becoming consciously aware of bodily functions, such as your heartbeat or breathing, to gain control over your health. The process usually takes place in the office of a therapist who specializes in biofeedback. Electrodes are painlessly attached to your skin. These are used to monitor your vitals, plus a few other things: heart rate, breathing, sweat, blood pressure, muscle movement, and skin temperature. The electrodes or sensors monitor this information and report back using lights. For example, your heart rate is indicated by a sound or flashing lights.

When you feel stressful, all of these things being monitored are effected. It’s just that you typically are not aware of it when it happens. With biofeedback, you can literally see your heart rate climbing or your muscles twitching by watching the monitor, even if you don’t feel it. The therapist then gives you immediate feedback to help you stop them or get them back under control.

What Does This Have to do with Chronic Pain?

Increased body functions often create pain. For example, increased heart rate can lead to higher blood pressure, which can lead to muscle tension…which leads to pain. So, a biofeedback therapist will help you identify what’s happening to your body when you’re under stress and then immediately guide you through relaxation techniques that will, for example, turn down the brainwaves that trigger migraines. Or lower blood pressure to relieve muscle tension.

In fact, experts say that biofeedback can help “you identify tight muscles and then learn to relax those muscles, biofeedback may help relieve the discomfort of conditions like low back pain, abdominal pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and fibromyalgia.” So, whether you’re dealing with the chronic pain that accompanies fibromyalgia or from some other source, biofeedback is making some real headway and is worth a shot!

Treating Chronic Pain with CBT

At first glance, biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sound completely unrelated. But they are actually similar in a way. With biofeedback, you’re retraining your body how to respond to stressors, right? Well, with CBT, you’re retraining your mind how to do respond to stress or other negative feelings. The goal for CBT? In this case, it’s decreasing your sensitivity to pain.

The American Chronic Pain Association describes CBT as a kind of psychotherapy. They add, “The central idea in CBT is that unhelpful thoughts and behaviors can contribute to negative feelings, and negative feelings can increase sensitivity to pain. CBT includes a range of strategies aimed at enhancing coping skills, increasing confidence and self-efficacy for managing pain, and changing how individuals behave in response to pain.” Sound helpful?

You’re in the Driver’s Seat

The idea here is to put you, the one suffering from chronic pain, in control of your pain so that you can enjoy as much of a normal life as possible. Sometimes it will diminish the pain and sometimes it will take the pain away.

Whether you are enduring acute or chronic pain, it becomes your world. It’s really difficult to see beyond sometimes. But CBT changes the way you view your pain. Indeed, as psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Hullet explains, “CBT can change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to pain, improve coping strategies, and put the discomfort in a better context.”

But are Either of These Right for Me?

It is important to understand that both biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy require effort on your part. This is a much different approach than a medication that does all the work for you. You’re only responsibility is to remember to take it and cross your fingers that it works. But medications are treating the symptom. They are not treating the body and mind. And that is what is at the heart of both of the therapies discussed here for the treatment of chronic pain. Perhaps you’ve tried everything and this is your last resort. Or maybe you hate the effects of medications and would much rather try this route. Whatever the case, you’ll have to decide if these therapies are right for treating your chronic pain, even if it accompanies fibromyalgia.

What has been your experience with these therapies? Please tell us!