When we first feel unwell with pain we may rest ourselves, perhaps taking time out from our usual activities. Hopefully we recover and gently resume our actvities. But what if the pain doesn’t go away, when the weeks and months and sometimes years pass with no significant reduction in pain?
Often people who experience chronic pain have greatly reduced actvities, and many people can become unemployed and socially isolated. This can then lead to depression as well, which in turn can lead to an increase in pain levels.
People with chronic pain also develop a fear of the experience of pain and so also have an understandable fear of being active in case this increases pain levels. So there can be a constant weighing up of whether doing activities is worth it, often taking into account that it will need to be “paid for” later or the next day – paid for with pain.
Many people who seek psychological therapy to help with chronic pain have been everywhere for help with their pain, and many have tried countless painkillers. It is a crushing blow to be told that there is no more to be done and that a psychological approach might be a consideration. Indeed many people come reluctantly and with doubt, having been referred by their doctor or specialist.
There are now a range of pain management skills that can be taught, many of which involve Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) or Mindfulness approaches. With patience, perseverence and practice it is possible to lead a fuller life again, spending less energy concetrating on pain and more on those things which give pleasure, inspiration or a sense of achievement.