An Olympic Lesson: Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Did you know that you could learn a lot from Olympic athletes, about managing your low back pain due to conditions like sciatic nerve pain or herniated discs? Watching the Olympians on TV, we can’t help but marvel at their mental and emotional toughness while competing on the world’s stage, often while struggling through and overcoming debilitating pain from injuries.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that explores and improves the connection between our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. The idea is that through this form of talk therapy, an individual can improve their coping skills with challenging circumstances such as chronic pain. CBT teaches people to change the way they think for the better. People suffering with chronic low back pain from conditions like sciatica and herniated discs can become depressed when they are less active and over time develop feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and despair. Sadly, this may worsen rather than help the recovery process. It’s important to maintain as active of a lifestyle as is possible, and an optimistic attitude toward managing your pain and treatment process.
The steps involved with CBT for chronic pain management include:
- Identifying Negative Behaviors: A therapist can help you examine negative thought patterns and assumptions. People struggling with pain over time start to believe they cannot do things, so why even bother.
- Improving Thinking: By challenging these negative assumptions and beliefs, the therapist helps you to develop an awareness of ‘bad thoughts’ so you can begin to replace them with more rational and positive ones. For example, thinking that you can’t be an active person while coping with chronic pain, can be challenged by realizing that you are able to perform gentle rehabilitation exercises.
- Improving Behavior: By overcoming negative thought patterns, you may be able to overcome inactivity due to anxiety, fear and depression from chronic pain. Becoming more active with a positive and proactive attitude could go a long way in reducing pain and stiffness. If you have to undergo surgical procedures, a positive outlook will also help you improve the recovery experience.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, research has shown that CBT helps to relieve chronic low back pain. While this therapy alone will not treat your underlying injury or condition, changing how you perceive your circumstance could help you improve your emotional state so that you are better able to cope with the challenges of chronic back pain. If you suffer with sciatic nerve pain or a herniated disc, you may want to speak with your physician about adding CBT to your pain management treatment plan. If it’s good for your mind, it’s good for your body!
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