How philosophy can change the understanding of pain
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Researchers have investigated how philosophical approaches can be used to think in new ways about pain and its management. The researchers advocate not merely reducing chronic pain management to searching and treating underlying physical changes but instead adopting an approach that focuses on the person as a whole. Their work was published online in the journal Synthese.

It is not currently possible to treat chronic pain effectively in many cases. This has encouraged researchers from various disciplines to consider new approaches to pain and its management over recent years.

In specific terms, they suggest three things: firstly, addressing pain should involve more than just looking for and treating underlying physiological changes. A holistic approach places the focus on patients as a whole and creates space for their experiences, concerns, expectations, and narratives. The influence of socio-cultural practices in the generation of chronic pain should also be taken into account.

Secondly, according to the researchers, chronic pain should be understood as a dynamic process in which many different factors interact in a non-linear way. The initial cause of pain, for instance, is not necessarily the cause of its chronification and also does not need to be the most crucial factor in treatment. The complex interaction of subjective experience, expectations, learned behavioral patterns, neural reorganization, stigmatization, and other factors, therefore, needs to be considered.

Thirdly, according to doctors, patients should be encouraged to interact with their environment and identify possibilities for action. This is based on the assumption that chronic pain fundamentally changes the way in which patients perceive themselves and their relationship with their environment.

Pain treatment could therefore involve helping the patient to increasingly notice positively associated and personally meaningful options for action and view themselves as capable of taking action again. There is then less focus on the body as an obstacle, and instead, the patients pay more attention to how they can overcome limitations.

Source: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-021-03142-3
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