Pain and The Brain
Mind-Body psychotherapy for chronic pain, anxiety, and stress-related illness
Calm the Mind, Heal the Body, and Get Back to Living
A Greater Boston Area Therapist
Recent advances in pain neuroscience have shown that many of painful physical conditions exist without true tissue damage or illness. Rather they result from a psychophysiological process that creates a hypersensitized central nervous system. This led to the creation of innovative evidence-based psychological therapies that move beyond traditional coping-skills-based models. By addressing the root problem these painful symptoms, once believed to be incurable, can now be significantly reduced or eliminated.
Pain and other stress response symptoms function as warning signals created by the brain to alert us to danger. Typically, you burn your hand, the brain creates pain, and you quickly remove your hand. Other danger signals include anxiety, stomach discomfort, and muscle tensions. However, when in a hypersensitized fear state, the brain can make prediction errors—overinterpreting normal physical sensations as painful ones and interpreting emotional distress as a threat to physical safety. Thus, when we experience long-term emotional distress, the brain stays in danger mode and physical symptoms become chronic. Further, most chronic pain clients develop an instinctual pattern of hypervigilance and activity avoidance known as the pain-fear cycle. Unfortunately, while self-protective in nature, this cycle further reinforces pain and leads to more learned neural pain pathways. Many chronic pain clients describe their lives as shrinking as the eliminate more and more activities that bring purpose and joy. They also experience a general sense of fragility and come to define themselves as broken or damaged.
Following this emerging science, in 2020 the ICD-10 added two diagnoses: chronic primary pain (CPP) and chronic secondary pain (CSP). The World Health Organization defines CPP as, “pain that persists for longer than three months and is associated with significant emotional distress or functional disability and that cannot be explained by another chronic condition.” Chronic secondary pain occurs when pain begins as a symptom of physical disease or injury but persists beyond successful treatment. Some examples include chronic neck and back pain, ongoing muscle pain and tension, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue; tension headaches, migraines, and many more. It is also important note that this same process can exacerbate symptoms of chronic medical conditions.
Dr. Leavell Offers Therapy Services in Massachusetts
If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or chronic physical pain/discomfort then please contact me today. I specialize in providing effective treatment for a variety of mental health issues and have openings for new patients. I provide one-on-one telehealth therapy to Massachusetts residents and hope to help you reduce or eliminate physical and psychological pain.