Early in my career I discovered that the clients I worked with who were living with chronic pain fared much better when a multidisciplinary treatment approach was used that included treating the entire person. That is why I developed the Addiction-Free Pain Management® (APM) System; an important component of which is to develop nonpharmacological approaches in addition to medication management to cope with the psychological and emotional components of chronic pain. One such non-pharmacological approach I’ve used with great success over the years is many different versions of music (acoustical) and art therapy.
Recently I was conducting research and came across a website new to me and found an interesting posting which discusses the use of art and music in pain management. If you want to read the entire posting please visit Science Blogs.Com.
A team led by Laura Mitchell recruited 80 people to bring their favorite song to the laboratory, where they would be paid to dip their hands in frigid water for as long as they could tolerate it. The musical selections they chose ranged from works by Johnny Cash, to The Verve, to Rancid. The volunteers first dipped their hand in warm water to bring it to a consistent 32°C. Then they held it in a circulating cold water bath at 5°C — close to freezing! This was repeated three times — once while listing to their favorite song, once while staring at a blank wall, and once while looking at a work of art they selected from 15 chosen by the experimenters. They were told to hold their hand in the water as long as they could stand it, or five minutes, whichever came first. Did listening to the music affect their ability to tolerate pain?
While listening to music was best, participants who viewed the artwork rated their ability to distract themselves from the pain as significantly higher compared to when there was no distraction (again, on a scale of 0-100). Perhaps it was the combination of factors: the music, the scenery, the comfort in being cared for by a family member, which combined to make me feel better at my uncle’s office compared to the public clinic. But in any case, it seems clear that allowing patients to choose their own music while experiencing pain does indeed go a long way toward mitigating that pain.
The art part of this experiment tends to validate one of my favorite chronic pain management tools that I call “Avoidance by Distraction.” When I work with patients I help them find something rewarding and interesting to focus their attention on experience some relief from the constant pain. One woman said that when she focused on being really present with her grandchild she didn’t even notice her pain symptoms. Again, using art, music and other “right-brain” modalities can be a useful addition to any chronic pain management plan.
To learn more about effective treatment for chronic pain management—especially using a collaborative teamwork approach—please check out my article The Need for Multidisciplinary Chronic Pain Management that you can download for free on our Article page.
If you’d like to receive training for helping people with chronic pain and coexisting disorders, including addiction, I’m very excited to announce we are presenting my Addiction-Free Pain Management® Certification Training in Sacramento on August 5-7, 2010. To learn more about this and my other upcoming trainings you can check out our Calendar page.
You can learn about the Addiction-Free Pain Management® System at our website www.addiction-free.com. If you are working with people undergoing chronic pain management and want to learn how to develop a plan for managing their chronic pain and coexisting psychological disorders; including depression, addiction and other coexisting psychological disorders effectively; please consider my book Managing Pain and Coexisting Disorders: Using the Addiction-Free Pain Management® System. To purchase this book please Click Here.
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