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Pain Management and Faith

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on February 6, 2023

The physical feeling we call “pain” is actually made up of many different factors. Many of these factors are not even physical, so this feeling cannot be understood if we look at it in a simplistic way. The experience of physical pain can be affected by stressors that are familial, cultural, and even socio-economic. Recent studies have even shown that depression and anxiety can cause physical pain to be more intense and that physical and emotional pain have a cyclical pattern that creates a mutually reinforcing relationship causing greater emotional and physical pain. 


To relieve pain, doctors and patients should not only look at the physical aspects of this feeling, but they must, together, look deeper into all areas of a person’s life to find the causes of pain. This investigation includes looking into behavioral, emotional, and even faithful aspects of life. By tapping into these areas, lives can be changed, and pain can be relieved, by giving a patient better coping strategies. Of course, pain-relieving medications and other medical interventions that relieve pain are also very important, but the psychosocial factor is not one to be overlooked. 


Many researchers suggest the biopsychosocial social model (BPSSM) as a comprehensive framework to understand how an individuals’ biological, psychological, sociological, and religious experiences are connected to their pain and the potential impact these variables may have. Practicing religion typically results in positive experiences towards pain management.


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Pain - Definition

Pain - Definition

In fact, research shows that people who are religious are less likely to have pain and fatigue. In a study of 37,000 people, 15 years of age or older, who suffered from fibromyalgia, back pain, migraine headaches, and chronic fatigue syndrome, those who were spiritual but not affiliated with regular worship attendance were more likely to have those conditions. Pain sufferers who were both religious and spiritual were more likely to have better psychological wellbeing and use more positive coping strategies such as prayer and spiritual support to handle the pain. 


Additionally, in a meta analysis of 147 independent studies of religiousness and depressive symptoms, religion appeared to protect against depression, especially in times of major stress. In other correlational studies, individuals who are strong religiously and spiritually were found to be healthier both psychologically and physically. In patients with chronic illness, those who reported that they were more spiritual were also able to respond more positively in terms of mental health. 


Faith and religion positively correlate to mental and physical health. While the journey may be tough to go through, religion and spirituality can become a coping method to bring individuals through their journey in a more positive way. Therefore, when looking into physical pain, it is important not to forget the emotional and psychological aspects of pain. By doing so, the patient may feel a much greater source of support along the way to recovery.

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