Mind Over Matter, Or Matter Over Mind: Pain Management & OT

Pain Management  OTCould your brain structure determine how you tolerate pain?  A recent study by American and Israeli scientists suggests that the amount of grey matter in certain areas of your brain directly impacts your pain sensitivity.  Specifically they examined the posterior cingulate cortex, cuneus and areas of the posterior parietal cortex involved in daydreaming and attention, respectively.  Study subjects who experienced pain more intensely were found to have less grey matter in these particular areas of the brain. They conclude that subjects might be able to overcome these structural deficiencies by raising their level of attention, which in turn results in better pain control.

This corroborates long-standing occupational therapy pain management practices.  OTs regularly utilize relaxation and visualization techniques to redirect their patients’ pain, and encourage engagement in highly focused activities such as yoga and meditation. Now we have a visible marker linking a physical condition (less gray matter) to a psychosocial condition (pain thresholds). With 47% of 353,000 Americans in a recent Gallup-Heathways poll reporting suffering from chronic pain, how could the discovery of a physical marker affect occupational therapy’s role in pain relief?  In the main, we foresee that the very holistic, patient-centered nature of the field lends itself to more occupational therapists taking the lead in case management for what has become an epidemic in this country..

How do you see the future of OT in pain relief?  Are you an OT or COTA currently working with chronic pain patients?  Have you considered using attention enhancement techniques with your patients to reduce pain, and if so which ones have been most effective? Leave a comment on our Facebook page.  Looking to optimize your talents in occupational therapy, contact one of our industry experts at 800 535 0076 or download our mobile app.

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