Empowering Wellness: Holistic Approaches to Managing Stress and Chronic Pain

Woman leaning on another woman's shoulder during group therapy session.

As an advanced nurse practitioner at PSA James Casey in Austin, Kaycee Frederick specializes in administering injections to the shoulders, knees, and other areas of the body, addressing trochanteric bursae, migraines, and more. She works closely with Dr. Gutierrez, attending to patients with acute conditions, many of whom experience high levels of stress.

With nine years of experience specializing in pain management, Frederick has become well aware of the intersection of pain and stress. As we make our way through National Stress Awareness Month, Frederick shares invaluable insights into the relationship  between pain and stress, and how to find healthy, evidence-based ways of managing both.

The Relationship Between Stress and Pain

Both pain and stress can precede and follow one another, Frederick says. Prolonged fight or flight response, can disrupt the body's ability to maintain equilibrium, leading to a cascade of physiological and psychological responses. This disruption can exacerbate both pain and stress, creating a cyclical pattern that challenges the body's resilience and adaptive capacity.

Stress and anxiety, for example, may prompt muscle tension, such as in myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) or pelvic pain conditions, where stress-induced tension in muscles in the back, pelvic floor, or elsewhere intensifies pain, perpetuating a cycle of stress and discomfort. 

Alternatively, the sudden onset of intense pain can be, not only physically challenging, but also disruptive to one's daily life, thereby inciting high levels of stress.

Managing Chronic Stress and Chronic Pain

To manage chronic stress and pain, it's crucial to equip patients with coping mechanisms that address both the physical and mental aspects of their condition. Highlighting the interconnectedness of pain, mental health, and stress can promote a holistic approach to management. 

Frederick notes how important it is to learn to monitor situational factors that trigger our own stress individually. Once an individual has identified their own unique stressors and found healthy coping mechanisms that work for them it may be easier to identify an individualized management plan.

Integrating Evidence-Based Strategies for Stress and Pain Management

Encouraging individuals to monitor their personal stress triggers fosters self-awareness, while evidence-based strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) offer effective mind-based tools to navigate stressors and their associated thoughts and actions. 

Accessing therapy, whether individually or in group settings, can provide valuable support, helping individuals understand the persistence of pain and mitigate related fears and anxieties. 

Additionally, professionals should offer explanations and interventions grounded in evidence to empower individuals in managing their pain and stress effectively. By incorporating education on pain and stress reduction methods, individuals can gain greater control over their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Pain Reduction

One study compared the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and usual care for adults with chronic low back pain. The trial involved 342 participants aged 20 to 70 who were randomly assigned to receive either MBSR, CBT, or usual care. MBSR and CBT sessions were conducted over 8 weeks, while usual care involved the participants receiving their regular treatments.

Results showed that both MBSR and CBT were effective in improving functional limitations and reducing back pain at 26 weeks. These improvements persisted at the 52-week follow-up. Therefore, the study suggests that both MBSR and CBT could be a beneficial treatment option for individuals with chronic pain and stress.

Patient Education and Pain Management

In a separate study, researchers explored the impact of combining pain neurophysiology education, or education about why the pain is happening, with therapeutic exercise for chronic low back pain (CLBP). Fifty-six participants with CLBP were randomly assigned to either receive therapeutic exercise alone or therapeutic exercise supplemented with pain neurophysiology education conducted in groups. 

Results at the 3-month follow-up revealed a significant reduction in pain intensity, with a large effect size observed in the group receiving the combined intervention. Secondary measures, such as disability questionnaire scores and pain catastrophizing, also showed moderate improvements. 

These findings suggest that integrating pain neurophysiology education with therapeutic exercise offers a promising approach for effectively managing CLBP, addressing both physical and cognitive aspects of the condition to improve patient outcomes.

Multidisciplinary, Holistic Interventions

A third study affirms the need to combine multiple modalities to treat pain and stress most effectively. The systematic review highlights the superiority of multidisciplinary interventions and emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to pain and stress management/ By integrating evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with comprehensive education on pain neurophysiology and stress reduction, individuals can gain better control over their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

PSA James Casey Success Story

Success with a holistic, mind and body approach to healing stress and pain is not just found in these studies – but in the very walls of PSA James Casey.

One inspiring story involves a patient who faced a life-altering injury, resulting in significant stress and upheaval in their life. Seeking support, they joined a dedicated support group and engaged in individual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Alongside these interventions, they received comprehensive care from PSA James Casey, including neuropathic medication for nerve pain, physical therapy, and interventional therapy such as neuromodulators, or injections. 

Alongside these interventions, they received comprehensive care from PSA James Casey, including neuropathic medication for nerve pain, physical therapy, and interventional therapy which included injections and peripheral nerve stimulator.

As a result of this multifaceted and holistic approach, the patient experienced a remarkable improvement in their well-being. They now thrive, finding solace and empowerment in the support group where they can share their journey with others facing similar challenges.

Find Your Holistic Solutions with Pain Specialist of America

All in all, it’s important to recognize the impact stress can have on our overall health – not just our mental wellbeing, but also our physiology and physical wellness.

This means we can expect to manage pain significantly better when we also learn to effectively manage stress levels, which calls for an individualized, holistic approach. Evidence-based practices like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and patient education provide effective tools to navigate stressors.

Success stories from PSA James Casey further highlight the effectiveness of a comprehensive approach, where patients receive holistic care and support. By implementing integrated and evidence-based strategies, individuals can gain control over their symptoms, find empowerment, and enhance their quality of life despite life-altering challenges. If you’re ready to start your journey to lowering stress and chronic pain, simply request a new patient appointment on our website. We’re ready to welcome you with compassionate care.

 Connect with Kaycee Frederick on Facebook and Instagram to get helpful tips on managing chronic pain!