Can a pet be part of your pain management plan? Research has shown that pain is directly related to levels of stress and anxiety. “Anything, like a loving pet, that helps to increase joy, love, satisfaction and reduce stress and anxiety can have a direct, beneficial effect on pain,” says Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, a licensed psychologist, psychologist consultant to WebMD, educator, and a published author of SLEEP: Everyone needs it and so do you and How to Be Your Own Therapist.
Pet Owners Benefit from ‘Happy Hormones’
“Caring for a loving pet also has a measurable effect on our body’s level of endorphins, the hormones that make us happy and ward off depression,” says Dr. Farrell. “In fact, animal-assisted therapy has been shown in pain management studies to provide significant reduction in pain and emotional distress. Pain management clinics have found this to be true, too, and pets are brought there as well as hospitals and nursing homes where their therapeutic effects have been seen as well.”
According to the Delta Society, an organization that promotes the interaction between people and animals says that research shows that pets decrease feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation. The organization says that people with pets have less tension and increased enthusiasm and activity levels.
Pet Owners Move
“Having a pet and doing any type of activity with them that is ‘exercise’ in nature, such as taking them for a walk or playing fetch, provides us with another way to reduce pain–plain old exercise,” says Dr. Farrell. “We know that anyone in pain often cuts back on their activities, something which, in effect, can make our pain tolerance even less. Any exercise helps our muscles work in a positive fashion on our immune system, often the source of many disorders causing chronic pain. Even slight, regular exercise with your pet becomes pleasurable and, again, you benefit by decreasing your pain.”
Pets Provide Distractions
“Pets also help us take our minds off ourselves and we zero in on them, not our chronic pain,” says Dr. Farrell. “Distraction of this type, again, aids you in fighting off pain. They help us fight feelings of loneliness and give us unconditional love at so little cost.” “All in all, pets are one of our most powerful and effective non-prescription pain relievers and they’re the only pain relievers that love us back for all the love we shower on them,” says Dr. Farrell.