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Sharp Health News

A mindful approach to chronic pain

May 3, 2016

A mindful approach to chronic pain

For many people, coping with pain is part of daily life. Injuries or conditions like fibromyalgia can cause pain that persists for months or years. This can lead to a cycle of pain and depression, anxiety and — for some — dependence on pain medications.

The Chronic Pain Intensive Outpatient Program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital aims to improve quality of life for these individuals. “We help our patients understand the connection between the physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral aspects of pain,” says Dr. Nancy Burlak, EdD, LMFT, CCPT, manager of outpatient services at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.

By emphasizing the relationship between pain and mood, the program helps patients accept pain and take an active role in managing it through coping strategies. Participants are encouraged to take part in activities that elevate mood, and to focus on accomplishments — like interacting with family and friends, taking medication as prescribed, practicing mindfulness and meditation, and asking for help.

“Safe physical activity and medications can certainly be part of the solution,” says Dr. Burlak, “but mental health is also critical.”

The program’s curriculum includes education on the signs and symptoms of pain-related depression, anxiety and stress. Once participants understand how to recognize these conditions, they are given coping strategies for each.

Depression can be managed by identifying alternative thoughts or scheduling pleasant activities; anxiety can be mitigated with deep breathing and stretching; stress can be relieved with proper sleep, visualization techniques and progressive muscle relaxation.

As drug dependence and addiction are real risks for people with chronic pain, the program focuses on taking medications properly, decreasing overreliance on pain medication and, in some cases, achieving and maintaining sobriety.

As Dr. Burlak says, “Our goal is to teach coping skills and help people take an active role in their treatment, not necessarily to eliminate pain, but so they can live a full life despite pain.”

For the media: To learn more about Sharp Mesa Vista’s Chronic Pain Intensive Outpatient Program, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com or 858-499-3052.

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