The Mind-Body Connection: How Telebehavioral Health Can Support Chronic Pain Management

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Depression, anxiety, and chronic pain are serious problems faced by a significant proportion of society today. Research has now shown that they are also often experienced together. Patients suffering from depression and anxiety are more likely to experience chronic pain. The opposite also holds true in that patients with chronic pain are more likely to be depressed. One study found that up to one-third of patients with chronic pain also experience major depression. 

Telebehavioral health has the potential to transform care by bringing care directly to patients.

Mental health disorders can lower patients’ pain tolerance thresholds, leading to stronger emotional responses and increasing the cognitive perception of pain, which can eventually lead to chronic pain. This phenomenon can be explained by more recent thinking about pain. Previously, pain was thought to be purely physical; an injury to tissue results in a painful sensation. Our understanding of pain has changed though, and we now better understand that tissue damage, psychological, and environmental factors all interact to determine how a patient experiences pain.

Patients with depression and anxiety often struggle to comply with treatment regimes, which can decrease their quality of life even further. Due to this and the physical and mental links between depression, anxiety, and pain, these disorders should not be considered as separate entities, but rather as interacting pieces that each form part of a patient’s whole experience.

Telebehavioral health brings care to disabled patients with chronic pain

Chronic pain can be debilitating for many patients, and patients with mental health disorders are also at a greater risk of disability. A survey of chronic pain patients found that 50% reported mobility issues. Because of this, driving to in-person appointments can be problematic for many patients. Telebehavioral health has the potential to transform care by bringing care directly to patients.

Even though the connection between pain and mental health disorders is becoming increasingly clear, pain management and mental health services are still disconnected.

A study by the University of California in Los Angeles found that 92% of patients who received virtual care for pain management were satisfied with their care. Additionally, the study also found that patients saved not only time, but also money on gas and parking, and had decreased stress around their appointments.

Treatment for pain and mental health issues requires a multidisciplinary approach

Even though the connection between pain and mental health disorders is becoming increasingly clear, pain management and mental health services are still disconnected. Pain specialists will often use medication-based treatment approaches, without addressing behavioral or mental health concerns. The recent opioid crisis has shown how ineffective this approach can be for many patients.

To better treat patients, a multidisciplinary approach is needed. Behavioral health interventions are an integral part of chronic pain management and can consist of stress management techniques, goal setting, addressing comorbid problems, and establishing effective communication around pain-related issues.

Access to this type of care can be very limited though, with pain clinics and mental health existing as separate, non-interacting clinics. A survey of patients receiving pain management care found that 75% did not have multidisciplinary care. Pain specialists were found to focus treatment on medications and internal procedures, but 39% of patients wanted integrative health solutions.

Telebehavioral health presents a better option for patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. By integrating virtual options, pain clinics can offer patients a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach with hands-on pain management care and easily accessible mental health care to help provide nonpharmacological coping strategies.

With licensed providers in all 50 states, MindCare is ready to partner with clinics to bring better mental health care to pain management. Our team of board certified psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and social workers help clinics expand their reach by supplementing existing teams and providing expert mental health care options for patients.

To learn more about how our tailor-fit solutions can work in your clinic to bring best-in-class telebehavioral health services, contact Margaret D’Angelo.

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