Substantial attention has been given to the impact of negative emotional states on persistent pain conditions. The adverse effects of anger, fear, anxiety and depression on pain are well-documented. Complementing this emphasis on negative emotions, Hanssen and colleagues suggest that interventions aimed at cultivating positive emotional states may have a role to play in pain reduction and/or improved well-being in patients, despite pain. They suggest positive affect may promote adaptive function and buffer the adversities of a chronic pain condition.
Hanssen and colleagues propose positive psychology interventions could contribute to improved pain, mood and behavioral measures through various mechanisms. These include the modulation of spinal and supraspinal nociceptive pathways, buffering the stress reaction and reducing stress-induced hyperalgesia, broadening attention, decreasing negative pain-related cognitions, diminishing rigid behavioral responses and promoting behavioral flexibility.
In a feasibility trial, 96 patients were randomized to a computer-based positive activity intervention or control condition. The intervention required participants perform at least one positive activity for at least 15 minutes at least 1 day/week for 8 weeks. The positive activity included such tasks as performing good deeds for others, counting blessings, taking delight in life’s momentary wonders and pleasures, writing about best possible future selves, exercising or devoting time to pursuing a meaningful goal. The control group was instructed to be attentive to their surroundings and write about events or activities for at least 15 minutes at least 1 day/week for 8 weeks. Those in the positive activity intervention demonstrated significant improvements in pain intensity, pain interference, pain control, life satisfaction, and depression, and at program completion and 2-month follow-up. Based on these promising results, authors suggest that a full trial of the intervention is warranted.
As brain research in pain processing suggests, pain engages overlapping cortical networks responsible for nociception, cognition, emotion, stress and memory, a treatment model targeting nociceptive mechanisms alone can be inadequate to address the complexities of a patient’s pain experience.1 To help physical therapists understand and more effectively address multiple factors influencing a patient’s pain, the APTA, Orthopaedic Section and Pain Management Special Interest Group have brought together 10 physical therapists and a physician from around the country to present an informative and dynamic 2-day pre-conference course, Keep Calm and Treat Pain, Feb 21 and 22 at CSM 2018 in New Orleans. Presentation topics include the Science of Pain, Pain Education, Pain Psychology, Motivational Interviewing and Sleep and Pain. In addition, I will present An Introduction to Mindful Awareness Training and Its Role in Pain Treatment, and my colleague at Herman and Wallace, Megan Pribyl, PT, MSPT, will present Pain and Nutrition: Building Resilience Through Nourishment.
As we are in the midst of the opioid crisis, this programming could not come at a better time. In this regard, I am especially excited to share information on how mindfulness training has been shown to help patients who are reducing opioid medications to increase positive affect, decrease pain interference and reduce opioid craving.2, 3 I will also describe how mindful awareness training helps address a patient’s fears and fear avoidant behavior and will guide mindfulness exercises.4, 5
I am honored to be a part of this pioneering program that combines didactic presentations with experiential exercises and lab practice to offer participants the latest science of pain and practical skills to more successfully treat pain. In addition, I am presenting an Educational Session sponsored by the Federal Section on the topic Mindful Awareness Training for Veterans with Comorbid Pain and PTSD based on my research experience at the Puget Sound VA in Seattle. I hope to see you at CSM!
Mindful eating requires slowing down and paying attention to the present moment experience of eating. Rather than mindlessly put food into your mouth and not really taste what you’re eating, you deliberately notice the appearance, smell, texture and taste of the food and pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Eating mindfully can interrupt habitual eating behaviors and promote greater self-regulation of food choices.1 Warren and colleagues conclude mindful eating has the potential to help address maladaptive eating behaviors and the difficulties many face with controlling food intake.2
Although mindful breathing, body scan and movement are the core skills I teach patients with persistent pain, I introduce mindful eating as another strategy to cultivate present moment awareness. Patients can have surprising shifts in their relationship to food and frequently comment, “If I ate more mindfully, I would enjoy my food more and eat less!”
Lucie Khadduri, PT, DPT, PRPC clinician and Adjunct Professor at the University of Puget Sound School of Physical Therapy, took my course last spring and describes her patient’s experience with mindful eating:
Faculty member Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA is the instructor of Mindfulness Based Pain Treatment, a course which enables practitioners to learn about the impacts of cognitive and emotional state on pain. Herman & Wallace was very lucky to have her join the faculty in 2014, and she has written in to share more about her reasons for doing so. Join her in the Bay Area this May 14-15!
I am inspired to teach for Herman and Wallace because I need more colleagues to help meet the continual demand for my skills and treatment approach. I teach patients mindfulness, body awareness and strategies to self-regulate the nervous system. Patients need to learn how to pay attention to the body in a therapeutic manner, release muscle tension, reduce the stress reaction and adopt an attitude that promotes healing and well-being. With the ability to rest the mind in the present moment, listen to the body with mindful awareness and take control of reactions to stress and pain, patients can reduce pain, make greater progress with exercise programs and improve activity levels. There is a huge demand for this treatment approach. I always have a full schedule and an insanely long wait list. More therapists who can offer mindfulness-based pain treatment are needed.I also want to get the word out that there is a lot we can do to prevent chronic pain
I also want to get the word out that there is a lot we can do to prevent chronic pain. Research suggests that a reduction in pain inhibitory mechanisms contribute to persistent pain. These mechanisms can be influenced by stress and cognitive and emotional modulation. Working with patients in pain for over 30 years, I have developed a clear and simple way to explain the role of cognitive and emotional factors in pain perception. I find that once patients truly understand how their reactions can amplify or inhibit nociceptive pathways, they are empowered to take an active role in a holistic treatment approach. We can improve the chances of recovery for patients at risk of chronic pain by identifying them early early on and providing them with education and mindfulness-based strategies to self-regulate the nervous system. Patients can be offered specific skills to reduce the stress reaction, fear, catastrophic thinking and the negative attitudes that amplify and prolong pain.
The following comes to us from Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA, our resident expert in the power of mindfulness and it's applications to rehabilitation. Carolyn was recently featured in a video from the Journal of the American Medical Association for her contributions to a newly published research article. Join Carolyn at her course, Mindfulness Based Pain Treatment: A Biopsychosocial Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain on May 14th and 15th in California's Bay Area!
Neuroimaging studies show that cortical and sub-cortical brain regions associated with cognitive and emotional processing connect directly with descending pain modulating circuits arising in the brainstem. As diminished nociceptive inhibition by descending pain modulation is a likely contributing factor to the persistence of pain, these cortical and sub-cortical connections to relevant brainstem regions provide a means by which maladaptive cognitive and emotional processing can contribute to the persistence of pain1. It is possible that strategies to help patients self-regulate cognitions and emotions could promote pain reduction through restoring the balance between excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms of the descending pain modulatory system.
To be mindful is to rest the mind in the present moment with stability and acceptance and without additional cognitive or emotional elaboration. Mindful body awareness is a central component. Training in mindful awareness has been shown to improve attention regulation, emotional processing and body awareness and contribute to reduced pain intensity, catastrophizing, depression and anxiety2,3,4,5. Training in mindfulness has also been shown to modulate brain activity in areas associated with body awareness and pain processing6,7. It is possible that the adaptive modulation of cortical and sub-cortical areas engaged with mindful cognitive, emotional and physical self-regulation could contribute to reducing pain through improving the balance between excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms of the descending pain modulatory system.
Mindful awareness has been defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding experience, moment by moment.” Kabat Mindful awareness can be cultivated through training in sitting meditation, mindful body scan, walking meditation and mindful movement. Over the past 3 decades, a growing body of research has identified multiple health benefits from training in mindful awareness. Keng, Lakhan, La Cour One pilot study evaluated the feasibility and efficacy of an 8-week mindfulness program for patients with chronic pelvic pain. Fox Pre- and post-assessments included daily pain scores, the Short Form-36 Health Status Inventory, Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Score and the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology. Upon program completion, participants reported significant improvement in daily maximum pain scores, physical function, mental health, social function and mindfulness scores. These pilot results are positive and promising.
In my experience, mindfulness gives patients the skillful awareness necessary to self-regulate their reactions to pain and stress. Many of these reactions are maladaptive and amplify distress and pain. With training in mindfulness, patients are able to observe physical, cognitive and emotional reactions to pain and stress and adopt healthy choices that de-escalate suffering. I am excited to share my 30 years of experience and training in mindful awareness and its application to patient care and provider self-care through my 2-day course with Herman & Wallace. Join me at "Mindfulness Based Pain Treatment: A Biopsychosocial Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain" on January 16-17, 2016 in Silverdale, WA.
1. Kabat Zinn, J.Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness. 2013, 2nd ed. New York: Bantam. 2. Keng, S.L., Smoski M.J., Robins, C.J. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clin Psychol Rev, 2011;31(6), pp. 1041-56. 3. Lakhan, S.E., Schofield, K.L. Mindfulness-based therapies in the treatment of somatization disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One, 2013;8(8), e71834. 4. La Cour, P., Petersen, M., 2014. Effects of mindfulness meditation on chronic pain: A randomized controlled trial. Pain Med, Nov 7. doi: 10.1111/pme.12605. 5. Fox, SD, Flynn E, Allen RH. Mindfulness meditation for women with chronic pelvic pain: a pilot study. J Reprod Med, 2011;56(3-4):158-62.
Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA is the author and instructor of "Mindfulness Based Pain Treatment: A Biopsychosocial Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain". Carolyn is a specialist in managing chronic pain, and has incorporated mindfulness meditation into her practice for more than 2 decades. Today she is sharing her experience by analyzing some of the most foundational research in the field of mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness awareness has been described as the sustained attention to present moment awareness while adopting attitudes of acceptance, friendliness and curiosity. (1,2) In patients with persistent pain, mindfulness has shown to reduce pain intensity, anxiety and depression and in improve quality of life. (3,4) Researchers suggest that mindful awareness may work through 4 mechanisms: attention regulation, increased body awareness, enhanced emotional regulation and changes in perspective on self. (5)
1. Attention Regulation: In chronic pan populations, improved attention regulation has been suggested to result in less negative appraisal of pain, greater pain acceptance and reduced pain anticipation. (6)
This November, Herman & Wallace is thrilled to be offering a brand-new course instructed by Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA, called Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to Chronic Pain. This course will be offered November 15-16, 2014 in Seattle, WA. We sat down with Carolyn to learn more about her course.
The constant flood of information in today’s interconnected, wired world trains the mind in distraction and away from the immediate experience of life. Many people spend hours gazing down at quickly changing images on the small frame of an electronic device and only notice the body when it has its aches and pains! Mindful awareness offers us a skillful way to pay attention, build body awareness, touch life fully and provides a healing antidote to information overload.
Mindful awareness invites us to rest the mind in the present moment with openness, friendliness and curiosity. This is not our natural tendency and requires training. Often we are caught in a struggle with the present moment, perceive it as flawed, find fault with ourselves and constantly drive ourselves to run, do and achieve. When mindful, we still have our plans, goals and to-do list, but this is not an obstacle to resting the mind here and now. We can stop the struggle with the present moment, touch life fully and open to the potential for ease and insight in the midst of things just as they are. New perceptions and an experience of aliveness can occur that can never happen when we are lost in distraction. Danna Faulds expresses this beautifully in her poem "Walk Slowly":
This post was written by H&W instructor Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA. Carolyn will be instructing the course that she wrote on "Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain" in Seattle this November.
I have taught Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Swedish Medical Center (SMC) since 1998. Over the years I have had many healthcare providers take the course and have long thought it would be wonderful to tailor a program specifically for healthcare professionals. I had the opportunity to do so this summer when, along with my colleague Diane Hetrick, PT, we designed and taught Mindfulness and Compassion Cultivation Training for physicians at SMC. The course was a great success. Physicians reported one of the most popular components of the program were our “on the spot” mindful practices. These are simple, easy-to-do strategies that any provider can employ to center, calm the body and steady the mind during a busy workday. They not only help reduce stress, but can influence brain activation to promote better decision making.
Research shows, under stress conditions, the amygdala activates stress pathways in hypothalamus and brainstem, evoking high levels of noradrenaline and dopamine release, impairing prefrontal cortex function. (1) Research also shows mindful practices reduce stress-related brain activity and improve executive functioning. (2, 3) I am delighted to share these powerful and practical “on the spot” mindful practices in my November course. My intention is for participants to have mindfulness skills to use for their own well-being the minute they walk in their clinic door on Monday.
This blog was written by Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA, who will be presenting at the APTA's Virtual NEXT conference in North Carolina. Carolyn is instructing a new course with Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to Chronic Pain. This course will be offered November 15-16, 2014 in Seattle, WA.
We all know a highly stressed patient will have a more complicated and prolonged healing process than a non-stressed patient. Recent research is finally illuminating possible mechanisms causing the amplification of pain by stress. For example, stress has been shown to enhance muscle nociceptor activity in rats. (1) In this study, water avoidance stress produced mechanical hyperalgesia in skeletal muscle and a significant decrease in the mechanical threshold of muscle nocicpetors, a nearly two fold increase in the number of action potentials produced by a fixed intensity stimulus and an increase in conduction velocity from 1.25 m/s to 2.09 m/s! Researchers suggest these effects are due, at least in part, to catecholamines and glucocorticoids acting on adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors on sensory neurons.
I always talk about this study with my patients who have persistent pain. It helps them understand that pain can escalate, not because of tissue damage, but because of the effects of stress hormones on their nerves. They understand that if they persist in escalating their stress reaction they will limit their healing potential. There is more research on this topic and strategies to help patients self-regulate their stress reaction that I look forward to discussing in my upcoming course in November.