Newer form of psychotherapy found to relieve chronic pain among older adults

Over 120 veterans, mostly men and aged 60-95 years, with at least three months of musculoskeletal pain were included in the study, the findings of which are published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.
Newer form of psychotherapy found to relieve chronic pain among older adults

New Delhi, Jun 14 (PTI) Chronic pain among older adults could be better addressed through emotional awareness and expression therapy (EAET), a fairly new form of psychotherapy, according to a new research.

EAET, the initial clinical trials of which took place in the 2000s, targets the past trauma and stress experienced by people having chronic pain conditions, but can worsen their symptoms. Some of these conditions include fibromyalgia, in which one feels fatigue and muscle pain all over the body, and arthritis (joint pain).

Researchers, led by those at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), US, compared the recovery of two groups of people suffering from chronic pain conditions - one receiving EAET and the other receiving cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT does not focus on helping people resolve past trauma or adversities, even as it is known to help them develop coping strategies in order to deal with personal problems by altering thoughts, attitudes and behaviours.

Over 120 veterans, mostly men and aged 60-95 years, with at least three months of musculoskeletal pain were included in the study, the findings of which are published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.

The researchers found that 63 per cent of the older adults receiving EAET experienced at least a 30 per cent reduction in pain. Only 17 per cent of the participants undergoing CBT were found to experience a similar reduction in pain.

Further, the reduced pain was found to sustain in over 40 per cent of the older adults six months after receiving EAET treatment, compared to 14 per cent of the participants receiving CBT.

The older adults receiving EAET treatment also reported more benefits in terms of addressing psychiatric conditions, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Of the study group, more than two-thirds of participants had a psychiatric diagnosis, with about one-third having PTSD.

"If there is a hurt or stressor people have a series of normal, natural emotional reactions. There might be anger, guilt and sadness. Because these feelings are painful, people often avoid them, but EAET helps people face difficult feelings with honesty and self-compassion," said lead author Brandon Yarns, an assistant professor at UCLA Health's Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.

"In therapy, they can release anger, pain and guilt that they've been carrying and are left with self-compassion in the end," said Yarns.

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