How an Injury Affects a Person's Mental State

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  "The thigh bone is connected to the shin bone", as the lyrics of a popular old song go. But the systems of our body are connected even more complexly than that. Indeed, what affects one part of the body can have ramifications far beyond what one might expect. Blame It On The Brain Our body's biggest multi-tasker, the brain, not only affects everything from vision to the operation of organs, it affects our perception of pain and our mental and emotional well-being. In addition, it also controls how physical pain and emotional and mental "pain" impact on each other. For example, if one is in great physical pain, then one finds it difficult to focus mentally, and is probably in great emotional stress as well. And while the results are inconclusive, some medical studies seem to indicate that relaxed, positive attitudes in the face of injury or illness seem to enhance recovery. But many illnesses and injuries have protracted recovery and rehabilitation periods. Combine this discomfort and pain with worry about bills, work, and other realities of modern day living, and another problem can arise. A patient may find himself or herself entering a depressive state indirectly caused by the injury. The Problems Caused By Post Trauma "Blues" No one's expected to feel good about being laid up for an extended period of time, of course. But there's a difference between being unhappy that you fell and broke your leg and the feelings that can be caused by living with chronic pain as one recovers from an injury. Our above mentioned friend the brain affects our perception of time, and severe pain can make time seem to slow down. In addition to prolonging discomfort, a patient may begin to worry about recovery chances, and the possibility of not being able to live a life free of pain. This in turn can lead to genuine depression. Many studies have shown that not only does the same areas of the brain affect both physical and emotional well-being, emotional distress can make pain (which can inhibit recovery) seem worse than it actually is. What Can Be Done To Help In order to recover from physical injury, the patient's emotional and mental health equally need to be considered. This means that before embarking on physical rehabilitation, health care providers should talk candidly to patients about outcomes expected from therapy, both short and long term. This conversation should include ability to work, daily functioning, and levels of possible discomfort. They should make sure that the patient is aware of resources that can assist with functioning during recovery, ranging from mobility devices to financial assistance. The patient should be monitored for signs of true clinical depression, and appropriate medication should be suggested and prescribed, if depression is found. The patient should also be educated on appropriate pain relieving medications and other pain relieving techniques to assist with rehabilitation. Work, hobbies, etc. should be modified as much as possible so that they can be continued during rehabilitation. By keeping the patient's emotional and mental well-being in mind following a physical injury, therapists will find a patient more able to actively assist in his or her recovery, increasing the odds of a better outcome.

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