Pain-related psychological issues in hand therapy

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Abstract

Study Design:

Literature review.

Introduction:

Pain is a subjective experience that results from the modulation of nociception conveyed to the brain via the nervous system. Perception of pain takes place when potential or actual noxious stimuli are appraised as threats of injury. This appraisal is influenced by one's cognitions and emotions based on her/his pain-related experiences, which are processed in the forebrain and limbic areas of the brain. Unarguably, patients' psychological factors such as cognitions (eg, pain catastrophizing), emotions (eg, depression), and pain-related behaviors (eg, avoidance) can influence perceived pain intensity, disability, and treatment outcomes. Therefore, hand therapists should address the patient pain experience using a biopsychosocial approach. However, in hand therapy, a biomedical perspective predominates in pain management by focusing solely on tissue healing.

Purpose of the Study:

This review aims to raise awareness among hand therapists of the impact of pain-related psychological factors.

Methods and Results:

This literature review allowed to describe (1) how the neurophysiological mechanisms of pain can be influenced by various psychological factors, (2) several evidence-based interventions that can be integrated into hand therapy to address these psychological issues, and (3) some approaches of psychotherapy for patients with maladaptive pain experiences.

Discussion and Conclusion:

Restoration of sensory and motor functions as well as alleviating pain is at the core of hand therapy. Numerous psychological factors including patients' beliefs, cognitions, and emotions alter their pain experience and may impact on their outcomes. Decoding the biopsychosocial components of the patients' pain is thus essential for hand therapists.

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