I read this interesting article from the Washington Post this morning talking about patients who have pain without a known cause -- meaning all testing that has been done is negative. The term somatization disorder is given to these individuals.
(Don't get me wrong, all the blogs that I read talking about pain do have a medical diagnosis and are receiving treatment. I want to be clear that I'm not labelling anyone that I read with the above term.)
I found the article interesting because it describes a treatment called "Cognitive Behavior Therapy," that teaches patients practical skills to help manage their symptoms.
The patients' ability to function, as measured by the number of stairs they could climb and the distance they could walk, was improved, and they reported being less troubled by 40 symptoms, including headaches, nausea, joint pain and difficulty swallowing.The article goes on to say that those with this disorder may be more focused on their bodies than other people and have difficulty determining what is "normal" aches and pains - perhaps a "hypersensitive nervous system."
Arthur Barsky, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and expert on medically unexplained symptoms, said he considers cognitive therapy essential.From my perspective, pain is a difficult thing to get a handle on. There has been a movement, especially in the medical community, to make an assessment of pain (during an office or hospital visit) as common as taking a blood pressure or obtaining other vital signs. I think this is a good thing, because I admit that docs probably don't address pain very well.
"I focus on the way people think about their symptoms and try to decrease their hyper-vigilance," said Barsky, who has published studies of both somatization and hypochondria. He teaches patients to stop scrutinizing how fast their heart is beating, for example, to quit touching their neck to see if a lymph node is swollen, and to avoid searching the Internet for clues to their symptoms.
I definitely agree that there is a mind/body link. With that in mind, there has to be options for these individuals with somatization disorder. If cognitive therapy is proven to help is most cases, I'll definitely utilize this treatment option. I'll be closely watching the scientific/clinical studies as they further unfold.