From a Physiologist’s Perspective

Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS), migraine, and tension-type headaches are chronic pain syndromes that are linked with the pathophysiology of brain disorders associated with painful stimulation. One of the key triggers of this condition is mental stress. If the mental stress is not resolved, it becomes a psychological factor that causes trigger point symptoms to persist.

Because the psychological cause and psychical response have been linked to each other, it is important to evaluate psychological issues in case of physical symptoms, especially if the condition is chronic. Often when the symptoms start it is assumed we are dealing with a pure physical problem. If any psychological problems are overlooked, treatment will often fail. In some cases, unsuccessful treatment might lead to an increase in fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, or hopelessness, resulting in the condition going untreated or becoming worse.

If physiologists are familiar with the the link between mental health and physical problems, the change of receiving the correct treatment is higher than when a physiologist lacks in familiarity on the topic. Often the cause is assumed incorrectly because the ailment is mimicking other diseases or conditions.

From the Patient’s Perspective

Patient misconceptions are often followed by unsuccessful treatment. Chronic pain and its cause are often interpreted incorrectly. In the case of chronic MPS, even patients with a long history of the disease may not be aware of the psychological causes. This is mainly due to the lack of familiarity on the topic by their healthcare providers.

Illness behavior refers to the behavior of the patient after the outcome of a diagnosis, which depends on how the individual patient will give meaning to the diagnosis. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, or aggression are common in patients with a chronic disease and can influence their physical behavior. While some patients use a mechanism to protect themselves from the subconscious mind in order to free themselves from stress or conflict in mind. The opposite is a lack of the intrinsic sense of realism which can make the patient that the disease or the symptoms aren’t even real.

Treatment of Chronic Pain Syndromes

Once the physiologist diagnoses a chronic physical problem, psychological evaluation will take place in order to learn if there might be a link between the two in the patient’s situation. This is needed in order to pursue the correct treatment. It is a holistic approach to the treatment of both physical and mental health. The ultimate goal of the treatment will be reducing and eliminating pain. But more importantly, we want to be sure the treatment eliminates the cause of the disease, not just the symptoms.

If the physiologist suspects there to be a link between physical pain and mental health issues, additional mental care will be strongly advised. Cognitive therapy is the most important treatment to correct misunderstandings by providing accurate advice about the causes of pain. Psychotherapy is widely used in the treatment of anxiety. Behavioral therapy focuses on gaining control over inappropriate behavior along with promoting appropriate treatment for patients.