Pain Psychology


June 12, 2015

Pain psychology is a service that is offered at Compass Health Rehabilitation Center. Patients are referred by their physicians for many different reasons, but basically the goal of pain psychology is to teach methods for coping with pain. Sometimes a patient who is sent for pain psychology will think, “I am in pain, not insane! Does my doctor think this is in my head?”

Pain psychology focuses on ways to help you live your best life despite pain. With chronic pain, there are often feelings of loss, due to limitations. There may be depression, because of having to fight pain daily, looking at a future that may be filled with pain, and having to cancel commitments because the pain is too severe. Many people also struggle with anxiety, secondary to pain, due to worrying about the pain lasting forever, the pain worsening, and whether the pain will stop them from being able to work and earn an income.

Friends and family members also struggle when a loved one is living with chronic pain. They can feel helpless, and want to offer advice, or make suggestions on what you can do to feel better. They may get angry when you have to cancel an event that they were also looking forward to. They may try to ignore that you have pain, resulting in a feeling that “no one understands my pain” or “no one cares that I am in pain’.

At times patients are referred for testing prior to a major surgery. This to determine if they are candidates for certain procedures, surgeries, spinal cord stimulators or other interventional methods. Patients are also referred for smoking cessation, due to the impact nicotine has on a person’s ability to heal after surgery.

Pain psychology includes psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to learn how pain has an effect on your mood; including feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy educates and teaches ways to improve coping and self-management of pain. Treatments may also include mindfulness training, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and distraction methods to learn to decrease muscle tension and better manage pain.