Pain is a familiar problem to most of us. It can be experienced as sharp, dull or mild. As unpleasant as it can be, pain is a vital signal alerting us to injuries or damage to the body. Pain lasting for a few weeks is referred to as acute pain. Acute pain gradually reduces over time and it is important for many common injuries resulting in acute pain that, after a period of rest, you return to exercising the damaged area to mobilise it back to health. However, pain that persists beyond this point – chronic pain – is more complicated.
In many cases of chronic pain, there are likely to be factors beyond just tissue damage that are contributing to the ongoing nature of pain experienced. Indeed, pain is maintained by biological, emotional and psychological mechanisms. As well as having various causes, chronic or complex pain has multiple consequences and can have a debilitating effect on all aspects of our lives. Often accompanying pain are feelings of anger, hopelessness, sadness, anxiety and despair.
Treating chronic pain requires a multi-disciplinary approach to address both the physical and psychological components. The acknowledgement that long-term medication usage is not an adequate treatment approach for chronic pain is increasingly filtering into clinical practice. Other medical treatments – such as surgery or rehabilitation – may be necessary in some cases and in others not. Whether it is used exclusively or alongside physical treatments, the provision of high-quality psychological therapy can be hugely beneficial for pain. As chronic pain affects our mood and stress levels, strategies to cope with these difficulties can be particularly beneficial. As our thoughts and feelings affect our nervous system, managing our mood and stress levels in turn can lead to reductions in the amount of pain experienced.
At Psychology Sussex, our specialist pain management psychologists are experienced in working with clients experiencing chronic pain, including Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). We are also used to taking a holistic approach to pain and working alongside other health professionals such as physiotherapists, general practitioners, or rehabilitation case managers in order to deliver the highest standard of care for the individual concerned.
Working with a specialist pain management psychologist
The primary focus of psychological therapy for chronic pain is the reduction in intensity of the pain experienced as well as helping you to cope better with the thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with chronic pain, especially if these are having a debilitating impact on your life.
Your physical, psychological and emotional needs will all be taken into consideration and your experience of pain will be explored to examine the factors which may be making it worse and what can be done about this. Once our specialist pain management psychologists have a comprehensive understanding of your difficulties and your experience of pain, this understanding will be used to inform a treatment plan. This plan may also be made in conjunction with other health professionals or alongside medical/physical treatments you may be receiving. Treatment plans will always be tailor made for each individual as, though there are many techniques and strategies that can be commonly employed for a wide number of people, no two people’s experience of chronic pain will be the same.
You may be helped with relaxation techniques or by working on coping skills to improve your wellbeing and ability to function. You may also explore ways that changes in your lifestyle might reduce the intensity of the pain experienced, better enabling you to work or engage in recreational activities. If your sleep is affected by pain then this will also be explored with a view to improving your sleep.
If you or someone that you know is experiencing chronic pain then do not hesitate to make contact with the team at Psychology Sussex now to discuss how it is that our specialist pain management psychologists can help you.