Why Psychological Support Is so Important When Dealing With Chronic Pain

Psychology Can Impact Pain More Than You Think

If you have chronic pain, it affects your thoughts, feelings and behaviors as well as your body. A holistic approach to pain management can be more effective than treating physical symptoms alone.

The Relationship Between Physical Pain, Emotional Pain and Stress

Chronic pain can limit your ability to function. Inability to function might make you feel angry, anxious, depressed, hopeless, frustrated and stressed. The more stressed you feel, the harder it is to deal with the pain and the more intense these negative emotions become. If the pain has no discernible cause, you might wonder if you're imagining it and question your own perceptions. You might feel guilty because you can no longer work, participate in activities you used to enjoy or take care of your family. You might blame yourself if you fail to respond to pain relief treatments, or you might believe your health care providers are undermining your condition.

How a Psychologist Can Help

Psychologists specialize in helping people to cope with the difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviors that so often accompany chronic pain. Psychologists can help patients to learn pain management techniques and to identify and cope with emotions like depression, anxiety, anger, sadness, hopelessness and discouragement that may accompany chronic pain.

What Will Happen When I See a Psychologist?

The psychologist will want to know about your pain and how you’re feeling. Seeing a psychologist gives you an opportunity to share thoughts and emotions that are difficult for you to cope with as well as feelings that you might not want to discuss with anyone else. You might be asked to complete a questionnaire and to discuss other matters affecting your life.

How Will Seeing a Psychologist Help Me?

Roughly 50 percent of those with chronic pain experience some type of mental health condition. Studies have found that those with chronic pain are much more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than the general population.

Researchers have also found that therapy with a psychologist can be as effective as surgery for chronic pain relief. A number of patients find that just a few sessions with a psychologist can help to ease the pain or help them to cope with it more effectively. If you have long-term depression or anxiety, a psychologist can help you get to the root of it and implement strategies to relieve it.

Your treatment plan might include specific practices such as changing your beliefs about pain, developing more effective coping skills, connecting with others instead of isolating, making lifestyle changes, participating in recreational activities you enjoy, engaging in physical activities that aren’t prohibited by pain, getting better sleep, following a healthier diet and learning stress management techniques.

How Psychotherapy Can Help With Physical Conditions

The stress that accompanies chronic pain can cause physical problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, muscle spasms, obesity and diabetes. These health conditions can increase stress and make the pain worse. A psychologist can help you to keep stress under control and thereby reduce the possibility of developing these conditions. Stress management techniques include meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and gentle exercise. Biofeedback can teach you to control certain body functions like blood pressure, muscle spasms and heart rate.

At Advanced Pain Care, part of our chronic pain treatment program includes an interview with a psychologist to assess how emotional and behavioral factors are impacting your pain. We then incorporate these factors into your pain relief treatment plan.