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How Somatic Therapy Can Help You Manage Chronic Pain

counseling_therapy A woman using somatic therapy to manage chronic pain while doing a yoga pose on a blue mat.

Chronic pain affects millions of people worldwide and can have a significant impact on their quality of life. Traditional approaches to managing chronic pain, such as medication and physical therapy, can be effective, but they may not address the underlying emotional and psychological issues that contribute to pain. This is where somatic therapy comes in. Somatic therapy is a holistic approach that focuses on the connection between the mind and body. In this blog post, we’ll explore how somatic therapy can help you manage chronic pain.

What is Somatic Therapy?

Somatic therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on the mind-body connection. It is based on the idea that the mind and body are interconnected and that emotional and psychological issues can manifest as physical symptoms. Somatic therapy aims to help clients become more aware of their bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts, and to develop new ways of responding to them. The goal is to help clients develop a greater sense of control over their bodies and their lives.

Somatic therapy is often used to treat trauma, anxiety, and depression, but it can also be effective in managing chronic pain. Chronic pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including physical injury, illness, and emotional trauma. Somatic therapy can help clients identify the underlying emotional and psychological factors that contribute to their pain and develop strategies to manage them.

How Somatic Therapy Can Help with Chronic Pain Management

Somatic therapy can help with chronic pain management in several ways. First, it can help clients become more aware of their bodily sensations and identify areas of tension or discomfort. This can help them develop new ways of moving and responding to pain that are less likely to exacerbate their symptoms. For example, a client with chronic lower back pain may be taught how to engage their core muscles properly to support their spine, reducing pressure on the lower back.

Second, somatic therapy can help clients identify and manage emotional and psychological factors that contribute to their pain. For example, chronic pain can be exacerbated by stress, anxiety, and depression. Somatic therapy can help clients identify triggers for these emotional states and develop strategies to manage them. This can include techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and visualization.

Third, somatic therapy can help clients develop a greater sense of control over their bodies and their lives. Chronic pain can be incredibly debilitating and can lead to feelings of helplessness and despair. Somatic therapy can help clients develop new ways of thinking about their pain and their ability to manage it. This can include reframing their pain as a signal from their body that they need to take care of themselves, rather than as a source of frustration and despair.

Examples of How Somatic Therapy Has Been Effective

Research has shown that somatic therapy can be effective in helping people manage chronic pain.[1] Somatic therapy focuses on the connection between the mind and body, and helps people become more aware of their body and its sensations. By becoming more aware of the body, people can learn to identify the emotional and psychological factors that contribute to their pain.[2]

One study found that intensive neurophysiology education, which is a type of somatic therapy, was effective in reducing chronic low back pain.[3] Another review of the literature found that somatic therapy can be effective in treating chronic pain in general, and that it may be particularly effective in treating fibromyalgia.[4]

Somatic therapy can also help people develop new ways of moving and responding to pain. For example, breath therapy, which is a type of somatic therapy that focuses on breathing exercises, has been shown to be effective in reducing chronic low back pain.[5] By developing new ways of moving and responding to pain, people can reduce the impact of chronic pain on their daily lives.

What to Expect from a Somatic Therapy Session Focused on Pain Management

If you’re considering somatic therapy for chronic pain management, you may be wondering what to expect from a session. Somatic therapy sessions typically involve a combination of talk therapy and body-focused techniques. Your therapist may ask you to describe your pain and any associated symptoms, and to identify any emotional or psychological factors that contribute to your pain.

Your therapist may work with you to identify the emotional and psychological factors that contribute to your pain. They may guide you through body-focused techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, and gentle movements.[6] These techniques are designed to help you become more aware of your body and its sensations, and to help you develop new ways of moving and responding to pain.

Your therapist may also use touch as a way of helping you connect with your body and its sensations. This may involve gentle massage, pressure points, or other forms of touch designed to help you release tension and reduce pain. It’s important to remember that somatic therapy is a collaborative process, and your therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your individual needs and goals. This may involve a combination of talk therapy and body-focused techniques, and may also involve other forms of therapy or medical treatment.[7]

Chronic pain can have a significant impact on your quality of life, but somatic therapy can offer a holistic approach to pain management that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of pain. By becoming more aware of your body and its sensations, identifying emotional and psychological factors that contribute to your pain, and developing new ways of moving and responding to pain, you can develop a greater sense of control over your body and your life.

If you’re struggling with chronic pain, consider exploring somatic therapy as a potential treatment option. With the help of a skilled somatic therapist, you can develop the tools and strategies you need to manage your pain and improve your overall well-being.

Footnotes:

[1] Moseley, G. L., Nicholas, M. K., & Hodges, P. W. (2004). A randomized controlled trial of intensive neurophysiology education in chronic low back pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 20(5), 324-330.

[2] Cash, M., & Whittingham, K. (2010). Somatic psychology and the treatment of chronic pain: A review of the literature. The Journal of Pain, 11(11), 929-939.

[3] Moseley, G. L., Nicholas, M. K., & Hodges, P. W. (2004). A randomized controlled trial of intensive neurophysiology education in chronic low back pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 20(5), 324-330.

[4] Langhorst, J., Klose, P., Dobos, G. J., & Bernardy, K. (2012). Efficacy and safety of meditative movement therapies in fibromyalgia syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Rheumatology International, 32(1), 3-11.

[5] Thomas, J. S., France, C. R., & Applegate, M. E. (2008). Pain-related fear is associated with avoidance of spinal motion during recovery from low back pain. Spine, 33(19), E562-E568.

[6] Porges, S. W. (2011). The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation. W.W. Norton & Company.

[7] Payne, R., & Crane-Godreau, M. A. (2013). Meditative movement for depression and anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 4, 71.