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Torture victims reveal new anxiety and pain management treatments


For people who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety and depression is a way of life. For people who have lived through torture and war captivity, their experiences may provide an extreme example of where pain originates and how to treat it.

New research presented at the European Federation of IASP, a multidisciplinary professional organization in pain research and medicine, shows that traumatic experiences are directly associated with subsequent chronic pain and may inflict a long-term dysfunction of pain inhibitory pathways. They also suggest that the best way to treat this type of pain is with education and counseling.

The presentation centered on pain perception and psychological status. Sixty former prisoners of war were the subjects. Their heat tolerance was evaluated and they participated in self-assessments regarding post-traumatic stress, psychiatric symptomology, and chronic pain.

“The results were striking,” said Dr. Ruth Defin from Tel-Aviv. “The former POWs exhibited increased temporal summation of pain, decreased continuous pain modulation and greater magnitude of chronic pain in more body regions more than 35 years after their captivity. Furthermore, the former POWs exhibited higher levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, pain catastrophizing, and anxiety sensitivity.” In other words, they had a lower threshold for pain, felt the pain more intensely and had pain associated with anxiety.

“Looking at the results of our study, it appears that war captivity and torture inflict a long-term dysfunction of pain inhibitory pathways. This dysfunction along with the emotional consequences might underlie the high rates of severe chronic pain among torture survivors,” concluded Dr. Defin.

They tested and now recommended pain management team intervention. They received lectures on pain and pain management, were allowed time to ask questions. Other topics included pain medications, stress physical activity and cognitive aspects of pain. All groups reported a reduction in pain symptoms and anxiety, but not depression.

Source: EFIC, MedicalNewsToday

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