How Physical and Cognitive Treatments Change Brain Function
At the 2018 American Academy of Pain Medicine Annual Meeting, a session discussed how pain impacts the brain and how treatments can change this.
The speakers were:
- Kristin Lucas, PT, DPT – Swedish Medical Group
- Elizabeth Gaffron MOTR/L – Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
Pain is a natural protective mechanism that impacts many areas of the brain. The brain reacts differently when processing chronic pain vs acute pain. The brain changes can be reversed through treatment.
The brain will trigger production of chemicals in the body that increase many elements of mood and body function. Pain interferes with these chemical productions.
Psychological barriers to pain treatment include:
- Fear of movement
- Poor outcome expectation
Mindfulness meditation can change the brain function associated with pain. There are many studies to support the use of mindfulness meditation. It can impact both the chemistry and physical nature of the brain.
The physical elements of pain must be treated in conjunction with the mental elements. If a person is severely de-conditioned, meditation alone is not going to solve the problem. You must combine exercise with the meditation. However, it is important to balance these two things. You can’t push a patient physically beyond where they are willing to go mentally. This will make them feel unsafe and trigger a fear response. This can be a slow process.