Reading Could Help Halt Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain Reading

Looking to relieve chronic pain? Read a book.

That’s according to the findings of a new study published in the BMJ Journal for Medical Humanities. Researchers at the University of Liverpool in the U.K. brought a group of 10 people together to read literature aloud on a weekly basis. During the sessions, participants took periodic breaks to discuss the reading, how it related to their daily lives and what memories or thoughts it stirred.

The researchers found that these shared reading experiences were beneficial because rather than thinking about memories or instances associated with chronic pain, they were forced to recall a much wider variety of life experiences. Focusing on this can help mentally and reduce symptoms before the onset of chronic pain.

“Our study indicated that shared reading could potentially be an alternative to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in bringing into conscious awareness areas of emotional pain otherwise passively suffered by chronic pain patients,” said Josie Billington, a researcher at the University’s Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society. “The encouragement of greater confrontation and tolerance of emotional difficulty that Sharing Reading provides makes it valuable as a longer-term follow-up or adjunct to CBT’s concentration on short-term management of emotion.”

However, other studies have also shown that CBT can have meaningful benefits in reducing chronic pain. A research project published last March in JAMA found that CBT and other forms of “mindfulness therapy” improved function and lessened pain better than standard treatments for lower back pain, while a separate study from Wake Forest University found that mindfulness meditation appears to activate parts of the brain associated with pain control.