Ignoring the trauma-pain connection hurts ourselves and our patients.
Past experiences, particularly those involving trauma and abuse, have an enormous impact on a person’s level of pain and even the development of painful conditions. This pain is real, whether it stems from a physical or emotional trauma. In people with a history of trauma, the body exists in constant “alert” mode, leading to a hyperawareness of external and internal stressors. Past experiences can increase a body’s response to pain and make developing chronic pain more likely.
As a physician, I ask my chronic pain patients about past traumas to provide them with better, more whole person care. One “treatment” that I recommend requires nothing but a pen and paper.
When these patients are ready, I encourage them to write about their past traumas. If they are comfortable sharing that with me or a trusted friend, even better. Or they can then destroy the document, and in doing so, unburden part of their past.
Here’s a resource you can use.
The experience of journaling can be quite therapeutic. Research has shown that even a single time “opening up” like this can help ease pain. For some patients, it’s more effective than a pill or procedure.
For providers, the solution requires a two-step process of first asking the right questions; and second, being open to suggesting effective non-drug solutions.
And speaking of being open to new approaches, I’m sure you noticed the new design of this month’s letter. I’m excited to continue sending you my thoughts, tools and resources. As our lives get busier, I hope this format is clearer and more engaging for you!