Understanding Chronic Pain
What is pain?
An unpleasant/uncomfortable sensation that causes discomfort to the body is described as pain it can be either the feeling of throbbing, soreness, stinging and pinching.
Pain can also be defined as the unpleasant response of the nervous system to damaging or hurtful stimuli.
Pain can be felt for a short sudden period of time, which may vanish within seconds or after some time once the inflicted site is healed. Such pain can be termed as Acute Pain.
While certain pain can last for longer periods of time causing an obstacle in daily functions of life, such pains can be classified as Chronic Pain.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is termed as such for pain that last at least 12 weeks, the pain maybe dull or sharp. Someone who experiences Chronic pain, their body basically sends signals of pain to their brain even after the injury heals.
Such pain limits the individual’s strength, endurance, mobility and reduces flexibility.
Records show that more than 1.5 billion people around the world have chronic pain. (American Academy of Pain Medicine)
What causes Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain can be cause by a number of reasons, some of the more common ones are after a major injury, post-surgery, inflammation also due to some psychological reasons seen when no physical cause of pain in found.
Basic assumption that is seen in cause of chronic pain is the presence of some underlying nerve damage, but cases without any nerve damage or outward injury has also been seen.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain
Symptoms for Chronic pain varies from mild to sever as it is persistence for a long period of time.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Pain: headaches, back ache, joint ache, muscle ache, overall body ache
- Sensation: throbbing, burning, stinging, pins and needles, sensitivity to pain
- Psychological: Depression, fear, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, irritation, loss of appetite
- Reduced: mobility, flexibility, endurance, strength, energy
The treatment of chronic pains depends on the severity of pain being felt by the individual, it includes medication, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, CBT and surgery.
It is important that the individual follows self-care procedures as well undergoes some therapy for their disturbed mental condition.
Chronic Pain and Mental Health
Though most causes of chronic pain are physical it also takes a toll on one’s mental health. Someone with chronic pains gets restricted in their daily life activity which leads to feeling of inadequacy. It effects the individuals mental state as it effects their self-esteem and self-worth concepts. With being limited in their activity along with the constant feeling of pain makes the individual angry, frustrated, irritated, depressed and anxious.
The fact that it also causes insomnia or leads to restless sleeping patterns along with a drop in appetite further effects the mental state of the individual.
The effect on physical pain on mental health creates a cyclic effect as when in physical pain, being mentally disturbed makes it hard to heal which then prolongs the healing process and so on.
Thus, it is seen that anti-depressant are also prescribed to chronic pain patients as it helps in physical pain and also stabilize emotional stress.
Role of psychology in Chronic Pain
People generally tend to believe that pain is caused by something physical and only has physical implications. But it is no so; multiple research and case studies have concluded that pain is multidimensional as it has psychological, biological and emotional factors. Though most cases of chronic pain have had some underlying physical cause there also have been cases with no such physical factor.
In today’s time treatment of chronic pain and pain in general is see through all four dimensions; physical, psychological, emotional and biological.
Chronic pain as we saw has a multitude of psychological symptoms ranging from irritation, anger to loss of appetite and insomnia. Even if Chronic pain is cured using some medical intervention, the disorder itself leaves a lasting impact of the individual.
In recent studies it has also been noted that there have been instances where medical interventions have not impacted the disorder or even brought about new complications and pain. Thus, therapies have now also been included in Chronic pain treatment; especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Such psychological interventions help control the symptoms and state of the individual by helping them manage thoughts, behavioral and emotional factors which effect the individual and cause more discomfort – it also may lead to reduce intensity of pain.
Overall, we can say not only the cause and the pain itself effects the individual but also their state of mind. Not only this it is necessary that mental state is also taken in consideration while choosing treatment it also plays a role while healing and after recovery in terms of support provided through rehabilitation and therapy.
How a psychologist can help someone dealing with Chronic Pain?
Psychologist are equipped to understand human behavior and help them accordingly by providing them with self-care resources. Chronic Pain as we know causes a lot of mental unrest as well. A psychologist will be able to help you manage these other contributing factors and also manage your pain to a certain extent. Especially by helping you deal with your thoughts and emotions.
As chronic pain cases differ from individual to individual, a psychologist too will try to understand the client respectively. They may ask questions such as ‘when do you feel pain’, ‘how intense is the pain’, ‘how does the situation make you feel’. Such questions will give insight to the psychologist who then will be able to help accordingly. Additional you will be able to voice your concerns and emotions about how you have been feeling.
A psychologist treatment plan for you would most likely include relaxation techniques, emotional management techniques, pain management techniques, understanding of pain from new perspective, resources to manage anxiety and depression and other resources that you may need.
A psychologist will help you handle and manage your pain and also help reduce to a certain extent so that you may lead a more normal life. Most of the psychological interventions would be aimed at lifestyle changes to make it more comfortable for you.
A psychologist will also equip you to be able to deal with your problems and find new solutions for it. Symptoms such as emotional chances, loss of appetite and insomnia will also be focused on and ways to manage them worked on.
Overall, the psychologist will aim to help you lead a normal life with being limited to the least amount. The duration of your treatment is a joint decision between you and your psychologist, with the ultimate goal being having learned coping skills to manage your pain.
Some tips to manage Chronic Pain
- Pain takes a lot for you- thus being active is an important factor not only to maintain physical fitness but also mental fitness.
- Finding new coping skills to fight your pain, be it distracting yourself or something else.
- Though it is important to stay active, it is also important to know when to stop, as too while too little is non-beneficial, too much could be really harmful.
- Research have shown more social people tend to suffer less depression and anxiety. When dealing with such a situation it is good to have some social support, don’t be shy to ask for help when needed.
- Treatment and recovery periods do take time, but with time they show promising results, thus staying hopeful is very important.
- It is also very important to follow your treatment plan, taking medicines on time, not missing sessions, taking care of self and most importantly asking for help or assistance when required.
Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensation which causes discomfort.
Pain felt for at least 12 weeks is termed as chronic pain. An individual who suffers from chronic pain is affected in all sectors of his life as it doesn’t not only physically limit them, it also effects their emotional and mental state.
Chronic pain though physical, psychological intervention in terms of treatment have been seen as a major healing factor. Psychotherapy has been found to have been as effective as a surgery in terms of reliving chronic pain, as psychological treatment for pain helps alter how the brain process painful sensations.
Overall, a joint effort with medication, therapy and self-care chronic pain is manageable. While medication helps with physical causes, therapy helps dealing with the other contributing factors and also in rehabilitation. Self-care though is the most important as knowing when to stop and asking for help is as important as going to sessions and taking medications.
- https://www.apa.org/topics/pain- management#:~:text=People%20often%20think%20of%20pain,physical%2C%20emotional%20and%20psychological%20aspects.