Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Curious Nature Of Psychosometic Pain

Shortly after writing my earlier post I began to feel a familiar pain in my right arm. This time I couldn't push the pain away because I was feeling too tired, so I decided to read a bit and take a nap. Before I put my book away the pain was already gone. After the nap the pain was still gone. That is, until about two hours later, when it struck again. I'm having a lot of trouble right now to convince that part of my brain which is doing this to cease.

How do I know for sure this pain is psychosomatic? Well, let's walk through the symptoms and occurrences again: Thursday afternoon I started having this tired feeling in my right arm which continued until I went to bed. The next morning I woke up with an intense pain in my right arm, which was literally breath-taking at times. A double dose of codeine-containing painkillers got rid of the pain for around 60 minutes, then the pain returned. I managed to ignore the pain and focus on my tasks for the day instead. The pain then suddenly vanished and stayed away for the rest of the day.

This morning I woke up without any pain whatsoever until around 10.30 AM, as described above. This sequence of events excludes the possibility of inflammation as its symptoms don't just vanish for 10+ hours on end to then suddenly and selectively reappear. I also don't experience any swelling, redness or warmth anywhere on my right arm. Functionality also hasn't been affected, ruling out anything neurological. This only leaves a psychosomatic issue.

Yesterday I described earlier occurrences of pain I suspect of being psychosomatic as well, such as the pain on the chest. Another one I described before on my blog was that of the left side of my face suddenly being extremely sensitive, even painful. This pain too suddenly vanished and didn't reappear without any physical symptoms other than a vague pain and sensitivity. No redness, no swelling, no marks on the skin.

What I'm finding at the moment is that convincing oneself of a pain being only imaginary is harder than it seems like. Yesterday it worked quite well, but trying the same techniques so far hasn't worked yet. What's different this time around is that yesterday I didn't realize it was psychosomatic and just tried to push the pain away in the assumption that it was a physical pain.

As an aside here, illness caused solely by mental factors is now called a somatoform disorder, which includes pain disorder:

"Pain disorder is when a patient experiences chronic pain in one or more areas, and is thought to be caused by psychological stress. The pain is often so severe that it disables the patient from proper functioning. It can last as short as a few days, to as long as many years. The disorder may begin at any age, and more women than men seem to experience it (APA, 2000). This disorder often occurs after an accident or during an illness that has caused genuine pain, which then takes a 'life' of its own."

I wouldn't call the pain I have experienced so far to be 'chronic', as it's more episodic, but if the current pain I keep experiencing in my right arm fails to subside and returns more often, it would be a) crippling and b) chronic.

I have honestly no idea what I could do to reduce stress and avoid this disorder, though...


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