How can psychology help me with chronic pain?
A referral to pain psychology is not because we think that the pain is "not real" or is "all in your head." Chronic pain affects much more than just the part of the body that hurts. It affects every part of daily life –work, family, recreation, social life. Stressful situations become more difficult to handle, sleep can become problematic, feelings of anxiety or depression can take hold, and relationships can become distant or strained.
Our pain psychologists will look at the bigger picture of how pain affects life and will help you find ways to cope better so that you can do more of the things you want to do. Learning effective pain coping skills is often the key difference in allowing you to keep pain at a manageable level while maintaining a productive, rewarding and enjoyable life.
The stress-pain connection
Research shows that stress can make your pain worse. Reducing stress in other areas of your life is one technique you can use to manage pain. Our psychology experts will gather a detailed history and identify areas of stress in your life.
Coping skills and relaxation
Chronic pain can be very stressful. Another role of psychology is to help you develop effective coping skills. Relaxation training is a technique that may help. Because the tension we carry in our bodies may make pain worse, using relaxation skills can decrease your pain and overall stress level. Research with people who have pain overwhelmingly supports coping skills and relaxation training as effective for reducing pain.
Increasing your control
When we experience chronic pain, we may feel overwhelmed or out of control. A goal of psychology is to help you identify what you can control about your pain and to learn strategies to increase your level of control and well being.
Mindful pain management
Mindfulness strategies help us develop moment-to-moment presence of mind, so that we can clearly recognize what choices lead to more well-being and less pain and suffering. Mindfulness is especially valuable for keeping pain in perspective: think of your pain as a challenge you can learn to live with, rather than a life-defining preoccupation. Learn to re-engage in enjoyable and valued activities you haven't been doing lately, and find ways to cope better when pain flares up.