Pets have improved the lives of those living with chronic pain and can help alleviate the depression that comes with it. There’s no doubt that having a pet or interacting with a trained therapy animal can help reduce and alleviate the pain and improve the quality of life.
Animals and the companionship they offer seems to be a natural pain reliever, and significant research supports this theory. Here are some ways that our pets can help us live optimal lives even with chronic pain.
Our pets allow us to feel less stressed out. Research has shown even for those that are not into pets, that petting a dog for ten-fifteen minutes reduces cortisol, which is a stress hormone. In a journal for pain, researchers studied the effects of quick therapy dog visits at a pain management clinic. Over 2-months they compared the individuals’ feelings of:
Tremendous improvements were reported for pain, state of mind, and other measures of stress among the individuals after the dog visit. Improvements were also seen in family, friends, and staff after the therapy dog visits.
Specifically, dog owners seem to be healthier than those without a dog. Cats are great but when it comes to activity/fitness, dogs require regular walks, which makes owners get up, go outside and move around. Walking a dog can help:
Being active combined with walking helps to get a better night’s sleep and reduced pain.
Research has shown how the proper attitude impacts treatment outcomes. With a positive attitude, an individual is more likely to stick with a long-term pain treatment plan. Petting and playing with a furry friend can be the perfect medicine creating an improved mood literally relieving pain and reducing the need for pain meds.
Individuals living with chronic pain are constantly thinking about it. Having a pet changes the focus from pain to joy and happiness. With a pet to care for gives the day structure and life purpose. Pets need attention and because of their lovability are hard to ignore.
This type of therapy is a legitimate option for chronic pain management. With the problems associated with opioids, doctors and patients are looking for alternative ways to treat pain. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that nonpharmacological therapies, like animal-assisted therapy, are now included in chronic pain treatment plans. Other options for pain relief include:
Example: An individual has a pain syndrome/condition. When the pain flares up the individual becomes irritable and upset. The individual has a dog that recognizes these feelings. The dog comes over and starts playing, licking, etc. The individual picks up the dog, calming the individual, helping change the mood, and ease the pain.
Owning a pet is a real responsibility, for those who are not interested in adopting, there are still benefits from pet medicine. Some ideas to consider:
When it’s time you might be ready for a dog of your own. Before searching the local shelter’s website, consider everything that comes with pet ownership. Factor in costs like:
Think about the size of the animal and if you can safely manage a small or large pet. Remember this is a therapy for individuals with a health condition of chronic pain. An individual needs to be able to see what they can take given their level of pain at any given time.
If you’ve never owned a pet, there needs to be an understanding that housebreaking a pet can be quite a time-consuming and exhausting task. This could add more stress and worsen the pain.
It is important to remember that therapy dogs do not have the same training as assistance or service dogs. Service dogs are trained to perform and assist with specific tasks to help an individual that has a disability. This could be a seeing-eye dog helping their blind owner. Also, service dogs live with their owners and are granted special access to public places like planes, restaurants, places of business, etc.
The American Kennel Club defines therapy dogs as dogs that can accompany their owners to volunteer in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes where they work together as a team to improve the lives of other people.
There are definitely medical benefits to having pets in our lives. However, don’t expect them to remove chronic pain overnight. Pets are another tool that can bring relief and improve the quality of life for individuals living with pain.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, and sensitive health issues and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate and support directly or indirectly our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation as to how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900. The provider(s) Licensed in Texas& New Mexico
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