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Adjusting Your Attitude About Chronic Pain May Help You Sleep

Last Updated: April 27, 2012.

Small study found ruminating on face and jaw pain made it worse.

FRIDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- People with chronic pain who learn to think less about their pain may be able to sleep better, according to a new study.

They may also reduce their pain on a daily basis.

The study included 214 people with chronic jaw and face pain, often considered to be stress related. The patients were white females, whose average age was 34.

The patients filled out questionnaires about sleep quality, depression, their pain levels and emotional responses, including whether they think about their pain often or exaggerate it.

The researchers said that such negative thinking was directly linked to both poor sleep and worse pain.

"We have found that people who ruminate about their pain and have more negative thoughts about their pain don't sleep as well, and the result is they feel more pain," study leader Luis Buenaver, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a university news release.

"If cognitive behavioral therapy can help people change the way they think about their pain, they might end that vicious cycle and feel better without sleeping pills or pain medicine," he added.

The study appeared online Thursday in the journal Pain.

The findings also may apply to people with other stress-related ailments such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, neck and back pain, and some headaches.

"It may sound simple, but you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think," Buenaver said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about chronic pain.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, news release, April 26, 2012

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