A person who is suffering from long-term back pain can see how it leads to them suffering a loss in quality of life that can affect various aspects of their everyday life.
Consequently, it is increasingly common to incorporate psychologists into multidisciplinary teams at spine units, to address the emotional distress caused by difficulties in adapting to this new situation.
Our aim is to use psychology to improve the quality of life of people suffering from back pain, to try to reduce their suffering and help them learn proactive strategies to cope with the pain and regain control of their lives.
The treatment, which is always tailored to the person’s needs, will address different areas: emotional, behavioural, cognitive and social.
The psychological techniques used will affect important aspects, such as:
- Understanding the pain.
- Dealing with emotions.
- Re-establishing and maintaining day-to-day, physical and social activities, appropriate to the person’s current condition
- Enhancing the active process of resolving problems or conflicts that may arise during treatment.
- Promoting healthy lifestyles, etc.
THE PSYCHOLOGY SESSION
In the first session, a comprehensive assessment of the problem to be treated will be made, and the patient’s complete medical history is considered, along with any difficulties it presents.
After ascertaining the reasons for the visit, the aims and treatment plan will be defined. These will always be individualised for each person, so the number of sessions and the duration of treatment will differ in each individual case.
PSYCHOLOGICAL TECHNIQUES USED
HEALTHY PAIN MANAGEMENT AND MENTAL AND PHYSICAL WELLBEING
Cognitive behavioural therapy:
Cognitive behavioural therapy has proven useful in the treatment of chronic pain.
Chronic pain can cause significant physical and emotional stress. Cognitive-behavioural therapy aims to detect and influence how a person thinks about their pain, and how they feel and act in response to it, to improve their mental and physical wellbeingstraight away.
People are taught different techniques, methods, procedures or activities that help to control and/or reduce their muscle tension and/or mental stress.
Also known as full attention, this is based on the Buddhist meditation concept of full consciousness, although mindfulness is not linked to any specific religious beliefs or life philosophies. Introduced to the West by Jon Kabat-Zinn, it consists of a series of exercises that promote awareness and the ability to concentrate and focus on the here and now.
Hypnosis is not a therapy in itself, but rather, it is a psychotherapeutic technique to encourage changes in the individual through the use of suggestions that induce a state of concentration and focused attention. It can be a useful tool to increase the efficacy of other treatments, and one of the areas with the greatest scientific backing is the treatment of pain.
The myths about hypnosis must be dispelled: hypnosis is not synonymous with falling asleep, or losing control or consciousness. In fact, the person is aware at all times and their concentration improves. It is impossible to carry out a session without the cooperation of the individual, who retains the ability to make their own decisions at all times, and the therapist cannot “order” the person to do anything against their will.
This means Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. EMDR was discovered by Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist, who discovered that voluntary eye movements reduce the intensity of the distress inherent in negative thoughts.
During the treatment, a specific problem is identified and this will be the focus of the treatment. The therapist will guide the person to process the most significant traumatic information about the problem, while undergoing bilateral stimulation or performing eye movements, to reduce symptoms, change beliefs and improve functioning in daily activities.
Brief strategic therapy:
This is a type of therapy that seeks solutions to problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is dynamic and flexible, and attempts to identify problems, possible solutions, and past attempts at solutions, to design the most appropriate treatment in each case.