Atlanta, GA,
09:25 AM

Pain: A Mind/Body Issue

This Pain Awareness Month, Wendy Magnoli, Ph.D., psychologist at Shepherd Center's Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute, discusses how the mind and body play a role in pain issues.

Wendy Magnoli

By Wendy Magnoli, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute at Shepherd Center

In the past, we have seen pain issues as having either a physical or medical cause or a psychological cause. In other words, individuals saw pain as either “real” or “all in your head.” Fortunately, over the past several decades, this model has been replaced by the biopsychosocial model of pain, which operates on the belief that all pain experiences are a combination of physical/medical, psychological and social factors.

This is a huge shift, and this new model more fully acknowledges the complexity of the pain experience. It allows for a two-way feedback loop between the mind and the body, with each impacting the other. For example, whereas pain can contribute to the development of feelings of depression and anxiety, it is also possible for symptoms of depression and anxiety to directly affect the pain experience itself. This can become a confusing cycle over time and is just one example of how pain psychology services can help make sense of the experience of living with pain.

Chronic pain affects every area of a person’s life, which can present multiple challenges with adjusting to changes in mobility, relationships, ability to fulfill responsibilities, self-image, mood and many other factors. Pain psychology can help navigate these changes and transitions, address mood and relationship issues, and implement various pain management strategies. Whereas many aspects of pain treatment involve having things done by medical providers (e.g., injections, nerve blocks, physical therapy interventions, prescription medications), pain psychology can help individuals with chronic pain take back some feeling of control by learning strategies they can implement themselves to manage their pain. These interventions include, but are not limited to, relaxation, meditation, mindfulness techniques, hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy. By learning techniques to help manage their pain, individuals can gain more control over their treatment, comfort and well-being.

The Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute at Shepherd Center embraces a multi-disciplinary biopsychosocial approach to pain management with team members from various professional specialties working closely together to ensure quality outcomes for those individuals we treat. We treat a wide variety of pain issues, including conditions of the spine and spinal cord, headaches, joint and muscle conditions, nerve pain, spasticity, and complex regional pain syndrome (formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy). In addition to treating former inpatients of Shepherd Center, we also treat a wide range of individuals in the community and surrounding regional area. Our pain medicine physicians frequently refer the individuals they work with to pain psychology services, especially when chronic pain significantly impacts mood, activities, and/or relationships with family and friends. These referrals are not made because of a belief that the pain is “all in their head,” but because strategies can be taught to help individuals cope with pain and even reduce the pain somewhat. After the referral, the pain physician continues to provide ongoing medical care and works closely with the pain psychologist to ensure the best possible outcome.

To learn more about the Spine and Pain Institute, click here.


About Dr. Magnoli
Wendy Magnoli, Ph.D., is a psychologist for the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute outpatient clinic. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Auburn University and completed her internship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. Dr. Magnoli has specialized training and experience in pain psychology as well as other areas of health psychology. She is a certified clinical trauma professional with years of experience treating individuals with both acute and chronic trauma histories. She is especially interested in the association between trauma and chronic pain.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.