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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not new, it has reared its’ head on websites and online support groups for years. I have patiently monitored studies concerning this type of therapy while listening to the varying opinions of others.

Believers contend that CBT can retrain your body to react differently to physical and emotional stress, and identify daily habits that may be harmful to your health.

CBT’s detractors feel it perpetuates the idea that Fibromyalgia, Chronic Myofascial Pain and Chronic Fatigue are all in your head.

Let’s look at the facts.

~ The term Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) will no longer be used, as current research shows it is not a syndrome but a true myopathy, and thus a true disease. Myofascial pain is not all in your head.

~ Fibromyalgia has been recognized by the majority of medical professionals, and the bodies governing disability insurance. Again, it is not all in your head.

~ Many physical therapists and other health care providers have discovered the work of Travell and Simons, and have implemented their theories into their treatment routines.  

I think it is painful obvious that we are taken seriously more often than not. So I had to ask myself, would a group of people, faced with this knowledge, still try to perpetuate the “all in your head” myth? Yes, a few unscrupulous individuals are always available to separate chronic pain and fatigue patients from their money. However, the majority of therapists are honest, trained individuals who truly wish to make a difference.

Behavior Therapy: A look at the official definition of behavior.

be·hav·ior/ –noun

~ Manner of behaving or acting.

~ The aggregate of responses to internal and external stimuli.

~  behaviors. a behavior pattern.

Therefore, in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy we have Cognitive, which in simple terms means thinking. We have behavioral which means how our mind and body react to external and mental stimuli. Then we have therapy, which means to analyze and take steps to improve your life.

In simple terms, Cognitive Therapy Behavior means thinking about changes that can improve your life. Wow, it sounds so simple, why is it so controversial?

I think it becomes controversial when patients are made to feel their mental state is responsible for their physical condition. While our mental state can play a big part in how we deal with day-to-day pain and stress, for those with chronic pain, it is their physical condition and loss of function that often causes depression.

I myself have inadvertently made behavioral changes without realizing that I was implementing a form of therapy. I had a tendency to let my shoulders ride up under my ears every time I drove a car.

When I arrived at my destination my neck and shoulders were wracked with pain that often resulted in jaw pain and a headache. Once I recognized this behavior, I made a vow to take a deep breath and drop my shoulders every time I was stopped by a red light. Much like Pavlov’s dogs, I drop my shoulders when confronted by a red light. By making this one small change, which took a great deal of time to conquer, I lowered my pain levels.

When someone tells you that you are doing something wrong, your first instinct is to get defensive. However, outsiders can often identify things we may not be able to recognize.

We often see inactivity and immobility as the best thing we can do when we are fatigued or in pain. However, the opposite is true. Not moving can actually add to your pain rather than lessen it.

This doesn’t mean you have to get up and exercise, it simply means that when you find yourself in the middle of a computer game or craft session, you should stop to stretch and move more often. Prolonged time in a chair, hunched over an activity will only worsen the problem. Assign a signal to remind you to get up and move. It can be something as simple as a commercial break on your T.V or radio. Stand up, roll your neck, stand on your toes or stretch from side to side each time a commercial airs.

People from abusive homes with childhood trauma may react to loud noises, raised voices and confrontations differently than others. The fight or flight instinct is working overtime in these individuals and outside help may be needed to help their bodies break the stress cycle.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will never take the place of a solid diagnosis and medication, but it can help you delve into your life to identify problem areas where you can exert control. They can teach you how to deal with toxic people, shopping, self-esteem, relationships, grief and more. If you are living with chronic pain and fatigue, your current lifestyle is obviously not working for you. Yes, there is a biological reason behind your pain, but day to day things can impact your health. They can guide you through dietary issues, stress relief, post traumatic stress issues and more.

This is a viable option to consider along with medication and other therapies. Put CBT on the shelf and try to think of it as just another tool to help you beat the pain.

© 2008 Jane Kohler
FMS Community


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