New research suggests that shared reading may help ease discomfort and provide cognitive benefits for individuals battling chronic pain.
Shared reading, as the researchers defined, was the act of of gathering with others and reading short stories, poetry or other literature out loud. Researchers said by reading literature that triggers memories of experiences throughout life, like happy childhood memories or relationships, patients can experience benefits similar to or that outweigh the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain.
Shared Reading And Chronic Pain
There are hundreds of different treatment options for chronic pain, because chronic pain is unique to the individual. Some people experience pulsing pain in their lower back, others battle waves and waves of headaches, while others have nerve damage that sends pain signals to the brain when their is no painful stimulus present. What works for one person will not always work for another, and unfortunately that’s the problem that many pain sufferers are running in to. In turn, they are looking into alternative options, one of which is shared reading.
For their study, researchers compared the benefits of shared reading to cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a technique that aims to change the way people think and behave in order to better manage physical and mental issues related to chronic pain. To do this, patients with severe chronic pain were asked to participate in either five weeks of CBT or 22 weeks of shared reading. At the conclusion of the five weeks of CBT, individuals in that group joined the shared reading group for the remainder of the 22 weeks. The shared reading sessions incorporated literature that was designed to prompt memories of family, relationship, work experiences or other happy memories throughout their lifetime. Participants were required to report their pain severity and emotions before and after each session, and they were asked to record their pain and emotions twice a day in a personal journal.
At the end of the study, researchers wrote:
- While CBT helped to manage a person’s emotions, shared reading appeared to help patients address the painful emotions that might be contributing to chronic pain.
- Pain severity and mood improved for up to two days after shared reading sessions.
“Our study indicated that shared reading could potentially be an alternative to CBT in bringing into conscious awareness areas of emotional pain otherwise passively suffered by chronic pain patients,” researchers wrote. “The encouragement of greater confrontation and tolerance of emotional difficulty that sharing reading provides makes it valuable as a longer-term follow-up or adjunct to CBT’s concentration on short-term management of emotion.”
Researchers want to conduct future studies with larger sample sizes, but it’s an interesting approach to treating chronic pain. We’ll certainly keep tabs on shared reading as a potential treatment option.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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