Nicki Anderson: Doctor shares truth about chronic pain
By Nicki Anderson For The Sun March 11, 2013 1:16PM
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:11AM
When you think of chronic pain, nagging back pain or neck pain from a poor night’s sleep might come to mind. But what about those who suffer with chronic pain that negatively affects all aspects of life?
Dr. Kathy Borchardt, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Naperville, provides specialized services in neuropsychology, pediatric neuropsychology, behavioral medicine, pain management and cognitive rehabilitation. She has some fascinating insight on chronic pain and strategies you can take to find relief.
It’s also been suggested that October through April when the barometric pressure shifts, chronic pain seems to spike.
But there are a lot of myths about chronic pain, most common is the myth of being a wimp and unable to handle any type of pain.
“In my practice, I very rarely meet anyone that makes up pain,” Dr. Borchardt said. “Just because others cannot physically see proof of chronic pain does not mean it does not exist. Because the chronic pain patient regularly fears he or she will not be believed by family, friends and physicians, that actually elevates their stress level, exacerbating pain experience.”
Chronic pain can be defined as an ongoing medical condition resulting from an injury to a body part and is experienced by the brain as pain. Examples of pain-causing injuries include broken bones, compressed spinal discs, or trigger points that develop in our muscles in response to an injury. Chronic pain tends to be progressive over time.
“Chronic pain manifests itself initially as a simple pathway between site of injury, and the part of the brain that registers the sensation of pain,” Borchardt said. “Within a matter of days, the experience of pain can grow to include other senses, so that vibrations, sounds, temperature, and pressure can aggravate and increase the perception of pain.”
Borchardt compares the body to an automobile.
“Over time, the repetitive use of various body parts causes wear and tear, and can lead to chronic pain conditions,” she said.
Another common myth about chronic pain is that medications are not necessary.
“Chronic pain that results from nerve damage needs specific pain medications that only attack nerve pain,” she said. “Muscle pain benefits from muscle relaxers. Arthritis pain responds to anti-inflammatories. Because the pathway from site of pain to the brain becomes ‘paved’ over time, sometimes the pain pathway fires out of habit even when the source of pain is either fixed through surgery or through treatment at the body’s injury site.”
Borchardt notes that pain medications are often designed to address the misfiring pain pathway, calming the nerve so that a new habit can develop, which does not include the misfiring of the pain pathway. However, long-term medication use is not encouraged.
Borchardt specializes in nonpharmacological pain management treatment. That includes education and training designed to increase the number of tools the patient has available to them to address their experience of chronic pain.
The goal is not only to reduce the painful experience in frequency and intensity, but also increase the patient’s perception of control over their pain.
“Behavioral medicine interventions include relaxation techniques, use of distractions, directed breathing, self-hypnosis, guided imagery, stress management, activity pacing and planning, improvement of sleep habits, and the management of the effects of pain medications,” she said.
“Cognitive therapy to adjust negative thinking and expectations surrounding chronic pain is important, too.”
Borchardt refers her patients to other treatment modalities, such as physical therapy, massage, biofeedback, chiropractic, exercise physiologists and acupuncturists as needed. Her goal is to work as a team member with the patient’s physicians to provide the best team approach to the care of her patients.
If you or someone you know is suffering with chronic pain, Borchardt suggests the following.
Seek out the reason or source of the chronic pain so that it can be medically treated appropriately.
Figure out what triggers escalate the person’s experience of chronic pain, whether it be change of seasons, sustained activity, sitting in a certain position, poor sleep habits, etc.
Become knowledgeable of and receive training in effective treatments and pain management techniques for those specific triggers of pain escalation, so that the patient can address those triggers with the most suitable tools.
Never give up the quest to appropriately reduce the experience of chronic pain.
Borchardt reminds us, “We all have the right to live life as pain free as possible.”
To learn more, visit www.kathyborchardt.com and click on “pain management.”