“Eight Ways to Cope with Chronic Pain” Article Overview

Introduction

The field of chronic pain management is growing rapidly due to the high prevalence of chronic pain in different populations across the world. In the United States, approximately 40-50 percent of adults experience chronic pain. This trend is worrying, hence the need for the development of the field of chronic pain management. This paper reviews a lay literature article on the management of chronic pain. The article is titled Eight ways to deal with chronic pain by Rachel Benner and it was published in The Washington Post on January 12, 2015. This paper reviews the author’s foundations and resources when writing the article and the target audience. The paper also reviews the relevance of the article to the public and the physical therapy profession. In addition, the paper investigates the accuracy of the article before expounding the topic based on professional opinion and the available data to verify or nullify the author’s claims.

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The author’s foundations/resources when writing the paper

The author does not cite the source of her arguments. In the beginning, she states, “These steps, distilled from research and experience, can help manage chronic pain.” However, the author does not state the source of her information on managing chronic pain; nevertheless, towards the end of the article, she mentions some resources like the Mayo Clinic, the American Chronic Pain Association, Pain Connection, and the American Pain Society. Therefore, most probably, the author uses these resources to compile the article, but this assertion is an assumption.

The target audience

The article targets the entire population. Pain cuts across all ages from the young to the aged. However, as an individual grows older, pain becomes a common phenomenon, and thus this article is best suited for adults, as they are highly prone to chronic pain.

Relevancy of the article to the public

The article is relevant to the public because it gives different ways of dealing with chronic pain. By definition, any form of pain becomes chronic if it lasts for more than six weeks. Currently, over 40%2 of the adult American population suffers from chronic pain at any one given time. This prevalence is very high, which underscores the relevance of articles highlighting the management of chronic pain. Individuals suffering from chronic pain can benefit significantly from this article because it gives critical information on how to manage their condition.

Relevancy to the physical therapy profession

The physical therapy profession conventionally deals with issues surrounding pain. Therefore, this article is relevant to this profession because it gives different ways of managing chronic pain. In the article, physical therapy is listed as one of the many ways of dealing with chronic pain. Therefore, professionals in the field of physical therapy can widen their understanding of chronic pain management by going through this article.

The facts presented, supportive or contrary data, and accuracy of the article

The article presents several facts on the management of chronic pain. The author notes that physical therapy plays a central role in the management of chronic pain. Benner argues that stretching and strengthening of the body parts having chronic pain increase mobility, which in turn reduces the severity of pain. According to the author, physical exercise is very important for the well-being of the body. This assertion stands out as a fact according to the available literature. According to Kumar and Saha, carrying out physical therapy on areas experiencing chronic pain reduces the severity of pain. Any form of exercise increases blood flow, which is a critical aspect in the alleviation of pain. For instance, if one has chronic lower back pain, physical exercise, which includes bending over several times, increases blood flow in the spine. This flow of blood in the spine and the area affected by chronic pain creates a massaging effect, thus soothing the area. The resulting soothing effect alleviates pain in that particular area; hence, physical therapy plays a critical role in the management of chronic pain. However, it is important to note that physical therapy does not treat chronic pain; on the contrary, it alleviates pain, and thus it is a pain management strategy. Therefore, Benner’s article is accurate by asserting that physical therapy is one of the ways of dealing with chronic pain.

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Benner cites socialization as another way of dealing with chronic pain. She argues that socialization creates immensurable benefits. However, the author does not state how socialization helps in chronic pain management. Therefore, this assertion is abstract because it does not have supportive evidence to qualify it as a fact. However, the available literature review indicates that Benner’s assertion might be factual to some extent. According to a 2008 study by Hatchette, McGrath, Murray, and Finley, adolescents undergoing some form of pain reported decreased severity after socializing with peers. This study revealed several aspects that link socialization with chronic pain management. By socializing and sharing their predicament with other people, individuals suffering from chronic pain can get advice on how to manage their condition. On the other side, socialization creates social therapy, which allows the affected individuals to engage their minds in other activities as opposed to focusing on the pain. Pain occurs after the brain receives pain impulses from the affected area. Therefore, if someone suffering from chronic pain is engaged in different activities, the mind shifts its focus from the pain. This assertion does not mean that pain disappears when someone is engaged in other activities; on the contrary, it implies that the brain’s focus shifts from the pain to the other activities, thus creating feelings of pain alleviation. This approach to pain management is very superficial, but it assists someone under pain. Therefore, the accuracy of the argument that socializing assists in chronic pain management is abstract, as there is no supportive evidence from research to qualify the claim. However, Benner argues that joining a support group will assist in chronic pain management. According to the author, “Support groups offer a space for people to share and learn from one another”. This argument is in line with social therapy, and thus it validates the claim of using socialization as a way of managing chronic pain.

The third fact that Benner highlights are that treating depression and anxiety assists in chronic pain management. The author draws a relationship between physical pain and psychological distress. Any form of physical or psychological distress aggravates the pain. Therefore, it is advisable to address psychological conditions as a way of alleviating chronic pain. In a study carried out in 2013, the results highlighted a very strong correlation between psychological distress and lower back pain. According to this study, pain causes general discomfort, and this aspect leads to psychological stress in most people. For instance, assuming someone is working on a tight schedule to deliver a very important report within a short period. If such a person is suffering from any form of chronic pain like lower back pain, s/he will not be in a position to concentrate because sitting down comfortably for optimal functioning becomes a problem. Therefore, such an individual is likely to become depressed due to the possibility of not beating the given deadline coupled with the pain coming from the lower back region. Therefore, this individual will be suffering from a myriad of pain issues, and solving the psychological aspect of it alleviates the entire situation. Someone suffering from chronic pain might not even realize that s/he is depressed. Therefore, dealing with depression changes the mood, which then alleviates pain in general. Based on this insight, Benner’s article is accurate by noting that managing psychological distress alleviates chronic pain.

The author notes that stress “increases pain, so meditation, biofeedback, positive visualization, and progressive relaxation all provide powerful tools to decrease stress and discomfort.” According to this argument, mindfulness relaxes the entire body, which in turn reduces tension in muscles by increasing blood flow. In addition, this technique works seamlessly to reduce psychological distress, which as aforementioned, contributes to pain. Moreover, relaxing the body via meditation helps in the release of toxins, which might be contributing to pain. In a 2012 study by Zeidan, Grant, Brown, McHaffie, and Coghilla, “over the course of a five-year study, it was found that chronic pain patients who completed an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program significantly improved their pain symptoms and overall quality of life, even up to four years after completion of this initial training.” This study echoes earlier sentiments made in this paper that pain is mediated in the brain. Therefore, creating a calming effect in the brain leads to pain alleviation. This argument is consistent with the article’s claim that mediation and mindfulness play critical roles in the management of chronic pain. Therefore, it suffices to conclude that the article is accurate on this fact.

In the article, Benner claims that discovering meaning and purpose can also be used as a way of chronic pain management. Benner argues, “Having a purpose in life is essential for boosting your physical and mental well-being” In this argument, Benner insinuates that in most cases chronic pain derails individuals and they end up losing meaning and purpose in life. Therefore, such individuals become hopeless, as they cannot figure out their reason for living. This feeling in some cases can become suicidal. Therefore, in a bid to avoid such feelings, Benner claims that one can regain self-worth and esteem through image construction, which can happen via finding meaning and purpose. In a 2014 study, Hegarty and Wall found out that a “high prevalence of stigmatization was identified in individuals experiencing chronic pain and a significant correlation exists between the type of stigma experienced, the level of pain intensity and other psychological factors including self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.” People without purpose and meaning feel stigmatized for they perceive themselves as useless. Therefore, giving a sense of purpose to people living with chronic pain will alleviate their condition. Meaning and purpose give an individual a reason to press forward in a bid to achieve a set goal. Therefore, this argument is consistent with Benner’s claim that finding meaning and purpose can be used as a chronic pain management tool.

Finally, the author argues that seeking help from professionals is paramount when dealing with chronic pain management. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Your physical health can directly affect your mental health…A therapist, counselor, or other professional may be able to help you put things in perspective. They also may be able to teach you coping skills, such as relaxation or meditation techniques.” The role of professionals in any form of the undertaking is paramount. Professionals in the field of pain management have been trained on the different available pain management techniques. Therefore, individuals suffering from chronic pain should consult professionals in a bid to get the necessary help. This assertion is factually based on the conventional knowledge that professionals are better placed to deal with a certain situation as compared to unprofessional people who can only air their views based on assumptions and personal subjective thinking and opinions.

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Conclusion

Benner’s article outlines different approaches to chronic pain management. The article is lay literature because it is not based on any scientific research. Therefore, the author does not use any credible resources when writing the article. However, after investigating the article based on documented research studies, it suffices to conclude that the different methods of chronic pain management outlined in the article are accurate. The article is relevant to the field of physical therapy as it helps professionals to widen their understanding of the different methods available for chronic pain management.

References

Benner, R. Eight ways to deal with chronic pain. The Washington Post. 2015. Web. 

Riskowski J. Associations of socioeconomic position and pain prevalence in the United States: findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Pain Medicine. 2014; 5: 1508-21.

Kumar S, Saha S. Mechanism-based Classification of Pain for Physical Therapy Management in Palliative care: A Clinical Commentary. Indian Journal of Palliative Care: 80-86.

Hatchette J, McGrath P, Murray M, Finley A. The role of peer communication in the socialization of adolescents’ pain experiences: a qualitative investigation. BMC Pediatrics. 2008; 8:1-8.

Bener A, Verjee M, Dafeeah E, Falah O, Al-Juhaishi T, Schlogl J, Sedeeq H, Khan S. Psychological factors: anxiety, depression, and somatization symptoms in low back pain patients. Journal of Pain Research. 2013; 6: 95-101.

Zeidan F, Grant A, Brown C, McHaffie G, Coghilla R. Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. Neuroscience Letters. 2012; 520: 165-173.

Hegarty D, Wall M. Prevalence of Stigmatization and Poor Self-esteem in Chronic Pain Patients. Journal of Pain Relief. 2014; 3: 136-140.

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