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How You Think About Your Pain Can Make it Worse – But New Reprocessing Treatment Offers Cure

Could thinking about chronic pain differently succeed in dispelling it when all other treatments have failed? While statements like “mind over matter” or “it’s all in your head” may sound dismissive, there’s some truth to them.

A new neurological recalibrating processes is experiencing a flood of professional interest—as it could help treat patients with chronic pain without the use of opioids.

The treatment involves combating a psychological phenomenon called “catastrophizing,” whereby a patient, frightened by future outbreaks of pain, will prevail “danger messages” throughout their physiology, perpetuating pain responses.

Arguably the most common occurrence in catastrophizing is when an individual refrains—long after an injury has healed—from performing a certain action. That fear of reproducing the pain means the brain can never re-calibrate and understand the action is now safe to perform.

Officially the method is called “pain reprocessing-therapy” (PRT), and trials investigating it are going on at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network’s Outpatient Center in Medford, Massachusetts, the Univ. of Maryland, Duke, and Cornell Medical College.

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“You can have very real, debilitating pain without any biomedical injury in your body because of changes in the pain processing pathways,” Dr. Yoni Ashar, a psychologist at Cornell and coauthor of a successful trial on PRT, tells National Geographic.

In the Cornell trial, 66% of treated patients with chronic pain had theirs alleviated, which held true even after the extended follow-up period.

As Ashar explains, the primary organ of pain in the body is the brain—so it makes sense to start there, especially if there’s no obvious evidence of a physical injury or disease that would cause pain centers to send pain signals.

“At Duke we’re now identifying patients before surgery … It’s been phenomenal,” said Padma Gulur, director of the pain management strategy program at the Duke University Health System.

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“I can look at the score and have a great sense that when we invest the resources for preventive, proactive measures for this person, their outcome will be far different than it would have been.”

20% of Americans suffer from some degree of chronic pain, and with few options outside of medication available, there’s a risk of opioid addiction. With PRT, there might finally be a safe alternative available to everyone.

HELP Others Who Might be in Pain; Share This Breakthrough Research…

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