Often people who suffer from chronic pain will experience periods of depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, frustration, low self-worth, anger towards others and themselves, toward situations, and negative feelings that they are no longer able to interact with the world and perform as they were once able to. Chronic pain can often become debilitating both physically and emotionally.
Seeing a psychologist can help with management of chronic pain, either independently or in conjunction with medical pain reduction strategies. Psychological treatment focuses on helping an individual to predict their patterns of pain and learn how to manage by taking pre-emptive actions through the use of psychological and behavioural strategies and tools.
Pain management is not designed to eliminate pain, but rather to help an individual continue to live a meaningful life and engage in valued activities despite pain. Pain management strategies aim to help individuals to change negative feelings regarding pain into an attitude of acceptance, allowing the individual to function as best as they can in all aspects of their life, despite pain remaining present.
Seeing a psychologist about pain
Psychologists are experts in helping people cope with the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that accompany chronic pain. They may work with individuals and families through an independent private practice or as part of a health care team in a clinical setting. Patients with chronic pain may be referred to psychologists by other health care providers. Psychologists may collaborate with other healthcare professionals to address both the physical and emotional aspects of the patient’s pain.
Studies have found that some psychotherapy can be as effective as surgery for relieving chronic pain because psychological treatments for pain can alter how your brain processes pain sensations.
A psychologist can also help you make lifestyle changes that will allow you to continue participating in work and recreational activities. And because pain often contributes to insomnia, a psychologist may also help you learn new ways to sleep better.
Progressing and improving
Most patients find they can better manage their pain after just a few sessions with a psychologist. Those who are experiencing depression or dealing with a long-term degenerative medical condition may benefit from a longer course of treatment. Together with your psychologist, you will determine how long treatment should last. The goal is to help you develop skills to cope with your pain and live a full life.
Stress and chronic pain
Having a painful condition is stressful. Unfortunately, stress can contribute to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and anxiety. In addition, stress can trigger muscle tension or muscle spasms that may increase pain. Managing your emotions can directly affect the intensity of your pain.
Psychologists can help you manage the stresses in your life related to your chronic pain.
Psychologists can help you learn relaxation techniques, such as meditation or breathing exercises to keep stress levels under control. Some psychologists and other health care providers use an approach called biofeedback, which teaches you how to control certain body functions.
In biofeedback, sensors attached to your skin measure your stress response by tracking processes like heart rate, blood pressure and even brain waves. As you learn strategies to relax your muscles and your mind, you can watch on a computer screen as your body’s stress response decreases. In this way, you can determine which relaxation strategies are most effective, and practice using them to control your body’s response to tension.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but managing your stress will help your body and your mind and lessen your pain.