I made a client laugh once and she said: “I feel better already!” I found a study conducted in 2010 that examined the effectiveness of humor therapy in relieving chronic pain, enhancing the quality of life and reducing loneliness among older persons with chronic pain. In this study, older persons in a nursing home participated in an 8- week humor therapy program, in which they reported significant decreases in pain and perception of loneliness compared to the control group. Materials for creating a laughter induced environment include funny movies, audio, and videotapes of humorous songs, books, and games. “The use of the joke of the day on the internet, jokes and funny stories all add value in helping patients who would otherwise have very little or nothing to laugh about” (Tse et al., 2010).
Chronic pain is commonly associated with depression, impaired functional mobility, and increased healthcare costs. As a result of pain, it is difficult for many people to perform regular exercise and engage in social events. Also, chronic pain limits physical and functional mobility, leading to muscle loss, falls and injury. The management of chronic pain is generally inadequate. For instance, some people, particularly the elderly, are reluctant to request pain relief, attempting to endure pain as a normal process of aging. Physicians are often reluctant to prescribe adequate pain medications for fear of inducing drug addiction. As a result, the use of nonprescription, drug-free pain relief measures is appealing to reduce the disability and distress associated with chronic pain. These include things such as exercise programs, acupuncture, chiropractic, heat and cold therapy, massage, and some of the newer methods such as PEMF mats and red-light therapy. Cognitive-behavioral strategies for pain management include hypnosis, relaxation with guided imagery, distraction, and the use of support groups. Humor is considered a distraction technique, which is achieved by asking subjects to attend to another sensory modality, such as an auditory, visual and tactile stimulus (Tse et al., 2010). In this regard, the person in pain could be encouraged to watch funny videos as a means to involve more sensory modalities and so help in their coping with pain.
Humor promotes some interesting physiological changes as well. These include:
- Increased lung capacity
- Increased IgA and subsequent immunity
- Reduced cortisol, growth, hormone and epinephrine
- Increased NK activity, IgG and IgM for as long as 12 hours
- Increased pain tolerance
- Releases endorphins in the brain that can help with pain control
Pain management together with humor was found to be more effective than pain management alone (Tse et al., 2010). “Regardless of their physical condition, patients need to allow themselves to be happy, to let humor play a greater role in their lives, and to enjoy life” (Tse et al., 2010). As a result, I plan to incorporate some humor therapy with IC patients that are in chronic pain.
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ReferencesTse, M. M., Lo, A. P., Cheng, T. L., Chan, E. K., Chan, A. H., & Chung, H. S. (2010). Humor therapy: relieving chronic pain and enhancing happiness for older adults. J Aging Res, 2010, 343574. doi:10.4061/2010/343574