Are you experiencing chronic pain and can’t seem to find anything that helps? If you answered, “yes” then neurofeedback therapy could be just the thing to help you overcome chronic pain. To help understand what neurofeedback therapy is and how it can help you overcome chronic pain, I have interviewed Psychologist Julie Nelligan PhD.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I’m a psychologist in private practice. I have a PhD in clinical psychology from Ohio State University and did nearly all of my training in hospitals and medical clinics. My dissertation was on how anxiety affects recovery from stress. I have treated patients with many different physical conditions including chronic pain, organ failure and transplant, infectious disease, substance abuse , and autoimmune disorders . I have authored papers on the interaction between hepatitis C and depression, given talks about psychosocial issues in liver transplant patients , and conducted trainings for physicians on addressing alcohol use in hepatitis C patients. One morning a week I work in the Northwest Pain Clinic at the local VA hospital. I see chronic pain patients suffering from headaches, back pain, joint pain (shoulders, hips, knees), pain from old injuries, and other, less-common conditions.”
What type of impact can chronic pain have on someone’s overall life?
“Chronic pain has an enormous impact on nearly every aspect of one’s life. Chronic pain causes people to experience depression, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. Depending on the type and location of pain, people often have difficulty working, which creates financial strain. Also, because chronic pain is difficult to understand (unless one suffers from it), family and friends misunderstand the chronic pain patient , causing problems in relationships. Most chronic pain patients do what they can to avoid causing more pain (understandably). They minimize physical activity, avoid socializing, and frequently take powerful narcotics. Unfortunately the effects of pain and attempts to avoid pain substantially reduce quality of life.”
What is neurofeedback therapy?
“Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback . Sensors that measure brainwaves are placed on the scalp. Information from the sensors is fed into a computer, which then provides feedback to the patient about their brain state. My patients typically watch a movie during feedback. In this case, the feedback comes through visual (the screen shrinks and fades out), auditory (volume changes), and tactile (hold a teddy bear that vibrates) sensations. Neurofeedback can help improve conditions that are a result of the brain having some difficulty regulating itself. Common conditions treated with neurofeedback include attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder , migraines, and chronic pain, among others.”
How can neurofeedback therapy help overcome chronic pain?
“Chronic pain can be a condition of the brain incorrectly processing information from the body. For example, sensations are interpreted as pain by the brain, but are not actually pain conditions in the body. Another common chronic pain condition is tension in the body creating pain: headaches, muscle aches, and spasms fall into this category. In both cases, neurofeedback can help the brain either reinterpret messages from the body or relax the body to reduce pain.
Frequently people with chronic pain also have problems sleeping, which is known to make people more sensitive to pain. One of the most frequent effects of neurofeedback, regardless of the condition being addressed, is better sleep. This is also true of patients with chronic pain and can be another way that neurofeedback helps chronic pain patients overcome their pain. Better sleep reduces sensitivity to pain, improves mood, and helps people cope.”
Where can someone find more information about neurofeedback therapy?
“A great place to start is a book titled, ‘A Symphony in the Brain’ by Jim Robins. He traces the history of neurofeedback and describes his own experience with treatment.
YouTube has videos of patients and practitioners telling their stories about the effectiveness of therapy. One high quality series of neurofeedback videos has been posted by othermk at http://www.youtube.com/user/othmerk .
If you are ready to talk with a practitioner, www.eeginfo.com has a directory of practitioners. You can also do an online search with the term(s) neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback and include the condition you are interested in addressing.
This is an interesting field and there are a wide variety of options when seeking a practitioner and therapy. To ensure you find a quality practitioner, I’d suggest asking about their success with the condition you want treated and about their experience in general. Some practitioners have certifications and graduate degrees, which can help you identify quality practitioners and therapies.”
Thank you Dr. Nelligan for doing the interview on how neurofeedback can help overcome chronic pain. For more information on Dr. Nelligan or her work you can check out her website on www.julienelligan.com.
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