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Johns Hopkins Health - For Pain, Sometimes It’s Mind over Matter

Spring 2014
Issue No. 24

For Pain, Sometimes It’s Mind over Matter

Date: April 1, 2014

pain and sleep

People who are in chronic pain often don’t sleep well, which means they’re deprived of the healing power of a restful night. It’s a vicious cycle. Luis Buenaver, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins, believes he has found a way to break through with behavior modification.

Many people who have chronic pain, Buenaver explains, make the situation worse by dwelling on the problem, magnifying it and convincing themselves there’s nothing they can do to feel better. This thought pattern, known as catastrophizing, is also linked to insomnia.

“These folks are definitely worrying a lot about their pain, and that’s impacting their sleep, which is making them more pain sensitive,” he says. His research of 214 people suffering from chronic face and jaw pain, published online in the journal Pain, suggests that simple techniques, such as teaching people to identify their negative thoughts and replace them with more balanced thoughts, can improve sleep and thus ease pain. “This is a skill people can learn,” he says.

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