Do you have chronic physical pain? Are medical interventions not taking care of the problem? Are you looking for alternative treatments and not finding relief? If you are struggling with chronic pain, you may want to consider the link between emotional trauma and chronic pain.
The link between emotional trauma and chronic pain
Studies have found that emotional pain and physical pain often coexist. This source for this conclusion came from investigating common outcomes of adverse childhood experiences. For example, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study found that adults who had grown up in dysfunctional (abusive) families are two to four times more likely of experiencing poor physical health — including chronic physical pain. Other studies have found adults who experienced childhood trauma are more likely to suffer from chronic physical conditions such as fibromyalgia, premenstrual syndrome, lower back pain, and disability related to pain.
Shared neural pathways
Researchers have found that emotional pain shares the same neural pathways as chronic physical pain. Specifically, the same regions in the brain that are used to diagnose chronic physical pain also become activated when we experience unwanted rejection.
We also know that ongoing emotional pain may contribute to physical pain. There is a high occurrence of people experiencing both chronic pain and depression. While researchers are unclear of the exact relationship between chronic pain and depression, we know there are shared neural pathways between chronic pain and areas involved in mood management. The relationship, however, is complicated; the causal relationship may be bidirectional, meaning pain may contribute to depression and depression may contribute to pain.
Why therapy can help
Given the close inter-relationship between chronic pain and emotional trauma, it is plausible that taking steps to heal emotional pain from trauma will be beneficial for reducing chronic pain. Additionally, psychological therapy is effective for improving pain symptoms and increasing health-related quality of life. If you are suffering from chronic pain, consider the possible benefits of therapy for resolving emotional trauma as a means for reducing pain, both physical and emotional.
Dr. Terry Crump is a clinical psychologist, board-certified clinical hypnotherapist, and author within the Metro Atlanta region specializing in individual therapy, hypnotherapy, and family consultations around health concerns.
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