Shared Reading Could Help Alleviate Chronic Pain

SR is used in a range of environments that have similarities with chronic pain as in the case of dementia, prisons, and severe mental illness.SR is used in a range of environments that have similarities with chronic pain as in the case of dementia, prisons, and severe mental illness.

Shared reading (SR) might be a more effective strategy to help alleviate chronic pain than cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

SR is an interactive reading experience in which small groups of people gather to read short stories, poetry, and other literature aloud. Literature that triggers memories of experiences throughout life such as childhood and relationships might be effective to help ease chronic pain than CBT, researchers have found.

Study leader Dr. Josie Billington, from the UK’s University of Liverpool’s Center for Research into Reading, Literature and Society and colleagues, reported their results in the journal Medical Humanities.

Chronic pain - defined as any form of pain that lasts for at least six months - is estimated to affect around millions of people globally.

Low back pain, severe headache or migraine, and neck pain are the most common forms of pain, with back pain being the leading cause of disability in many countries.

While a number of medications can help with chronic pain management, they are not always effective. Patients are increasingly turning to non-pharmacological strategies, such as CBT, to help alleviate pain.

CBT is a form of talk therapy that aims to change the way people think and behave in order to better manage mental and physical issues. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression.

Studies have shown that the technique may be effective for chronic pain, but the results can be short-lived.

For their research, Billington and colleagues wanted to compare SR with CBT for chronic pain, since the former is often used to help ease the symptoms of other chronic conditions, such as dementia.

Participants with severe chronic pain were recruited in the study. Some subjects completed 5 weeks of CBT, and parallel to this, the remaining subjects completed 22 weeks of SR. After 5 weeks, participants who completed CBT joined the SR group.

 Sharing Experiences

The SR strategy incorporated literature that was designed to prompt memories of relationships, family members, work, and other experiences that arise throughout a lifetime, as opposed to CBT, which focused on a single point in time at which the patient was affected by chronic pain.

SR is used in a range of environments that have similarities with chronic pain, in that the conditions involved can often be chronic and unsolvable, as in the case of dementia, prisons (people locked in, life halted and future inevitably affected by baggage of past), and severe mental illness (with recurring episodes), reported.

While CBT helped participants to “manage” their emotions using organized methods, researchers found that shared reading helped patients to address painful emotions that might be contributing to their chronic pain.

Furthermore, they found that pain severity and mood improved for up to 2 days following SR.

“Our study indicated that shared reading could potentially be an alternative to CBT in bringing into conscious awareness areas of emotional pain otherwise passively suffered by chronic pain patients,” said Billington.

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