Can Psychotherapy Help In Chronic Pain? Its Role, Benefits, Treatment Modalities are CBT, Visualisation, Progressive Relaxation, Stress Management Techniques

Every one of us experiences pain at some point in time or the other. However, some are little unfortunate to continue the painful experience for long. Generally, this kind of long-term pain is termed as chronic pain. That’s when it starts bothering you and those around you.

Psychotherapy Help In Chronic Pain

Understanding Chronic Pain Disorder

Sometimes, painful conditions can trouble more and particularly, the pain can persist longer than you expect. Chronic pain is usually present for more than six months and may considerably interfere with your daily activities. The pain may be related to a physical injury or ailment or sometimes may not be related to any medical condition. Additionally, when chronic pain seems to be linked with emotional factors, as being the cause or triggering factor, it can be called as chronic pain disorder.

No one would like to hear that “the pain is only in your mind”. Of course not; pain is real for the sufferer. But sometimes, although the origin of such pain is of physical nature, it often begins to act at an emotional level too.

Role Of Psychotherapy

If you have been in pain for a long time and if it is also affecting your life, you are bound to feel more stressed. And guess what? The added stress can in turn aggravate your pain and the vicious cycle can continue. You have got to stop it somewhere. That’s where psychotherapy can work wonders. Simply put, psychotherapy is a therapeutic approach that deals with your emotional problems and trains you to deal with it more tactfully instead of suffering the agony.

The best part of psychotherapy is that it acknowledges the fact that the pain you are experiencing is real. It also believes that it can have long term effects on your health if not curbed at this stage. However, the fact is that the same type of chronic pain is perceived differently by different people. This means that chronic pain is subjective and is specific depending on your attitude, resistance and other personality or behavioral traits. A type of pain, which is tolerable for a person, may be unmanageable for the other.

Hence, psychotherapy, which is highly individual in its own nature, can help in coping your daily stressful conditions rising from chronic pain.

Benefits Of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, which is also called as ‘talk therapy’, tries to reach into the depth of your emotional status related to the chronic pain. Painful conditions often make you feel dejected, neglected and at times even frustrated. Psychotherapy helps you to study such emotions along with your personality and find a direction that can lead you towards a better life.

Some Of The Benefits That It Offers Are:

  • Helps you to gain an understanding of the extent of your pain and the degree to which it affects your life;
  • Trains you to modify your attitudes and behaviors so as to limit the effect of your chronic pain on your daily activities and relationships;
  • Helps you to encourage positive thinking, maintain a balanced state of mind and disregard negative feelings or apprehension;
  • Supports you to develop strategies that direct you towards normal daily life and helps to improve your self control and self –confidence;
  • Helps you to develop social support and enjoy the company of friends, family and other social relations more effectively;
  • Guides you with stress management techniques and behavior modifications strategies to keep up your emotional strength.

Modalities In Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, when focusing on relieving chronic pain, aims at addressing the emotional and cognitive part of your personality or behavior. Some of the methods commonly used in psychotherapy include:

Cognitive Behavior Training (CBT) – It is considered that pain is perceived at the cognitive level and affects the emotional level; similarly, if the cognitive plane is dealt with, pain can be managed better. Cognitive training aims at helping you to learn the ways in which your brain responds to pain. It trains you to change your thoughts and emotions and alter your behaviors related to pain. With cognitive training you can deal with the discomfort better by replacing the negative thoughts and reactions with positive ones.

Visualization – You are guided through a set of instructions that help you to visualize your positive self without any pain. Imagining a pain-free you, slowly trains your mind for positive thinking and eventually helps you to come out of your suffering.

Progressive Relaxation – This aims at relieving your mental stress by consciously making the physical body relax. You need to follow step by step instructions and begin to relax your body as guided, i.e. hands, fingers, legs, toes, etc. This relaxes the muscles and every part of your body thus calming the mind.

Stress Management Techniques – These techniques mainly aim at reducing your stress that could possibly be playing an important role in your chronic pain.

While medical treatment has its own place in pain management, allied medical therapies can also be considered. Psychotherapy is practiced by qualified professionals and yes, it can be of great help in managing chronic pain if followed religiously as directed by the therapist.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 3, 2018

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