Shared Reading Helpful For Chronic Pain Patients

Shared Reading Chronic PainNew 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.

Study Results

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.

What Virtual Reality Can Teach Us About Chronic Pain

Virtual reality may be the next innovation in the gaming world, but it also may offer real world benefits for chronic pain sufferers.

According to research published in Psychological Science, virtual reality is being used to see how physical and physiological factors impact chronic pain. Researchers say that misrepresenting physical positions through virtual reality can change how someone experiences pain. For example, researchers would outfit patients with a virtual reality device that appeared to show their neck torqued in a position of discomfort to determine how a perceived position impacts brain signals.

Virtual Reality

“Our findings show that the brain does not need danger messages coming from the tissues of the body in order to generate pain in that body part — sensible and reliable cues that predict impending pain are enough to produce the experience of pain,” said researcher G. Moseley of the University of South Australia. “These results suggest a new approach to developing treatments for pain that are based on separating the non-danger messages from the danger messages associated with a movement.”

The Virtual Study

To see how virtual movements impacted chronic pain perception in your brain, researchers recruited 24 chronic pain sufferers whose pain stemmed from several different conditions, including poor posture, tension, repeated strain, trauma and scoliosis. Participants were equipped with a virtual reality head-mounted display and were positioned to prevent excessive torso movement.

Once the headsets were in place, researchers asked participants to rotate their head until they experienced pain. What the participants didn’t know is that their virtual reality devices either:

  • Projected an over-rotated representation of the person’s neck.
  • Projected an under-rotated representation of the person’s neck.

After looking at the data, researchers uncovered that the feedback display had a significant impact on when the participant reported pain. Researchers found:

  • When head rotation was understated, participants rotated their heads about 6 percent farther than normal before reporting pain.
  • When head rotation was overstated, pain-free range of motion was reduced by an average of 7 percent.
  • Intensity of pain did not differ across the various representations.

“We were surprised at how robust and predictable this pattern of results was,” said Moseley. “If cues signaling danger amplify or indeed trigger pain, then these cues present a novel target for therapy.”