Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for 3 months or more. Pain Psychology persists long after the injury and has a significant impact on day to day life and mental health. Chronic pain is common, affecting over 10% of Australian adults. Many people think of chronic pain as a physical problem, but there is a growing awareness of the important role that psychological and neurobiological factors play in this condition.
Most specialist chronic pain teams include psychiatrists and/or psychologists. Effective pain treatment should involve psychological therapy to help patients understand their condition, learn pain management skills and regain a sense of self-efficacy and control over their lives. Medication can also play a role in treating chronic pain, along with physical therapies and aids.
Our team at Epsychiatry will work with you and your broader care team (e.g. GP, occupational or physiotherapist) to support you in managing your chronic pain. We encourage you to contact us with any queries or to seek a referral from your GP to see one of our experienced clinicians.
Chronic pain can have a significant impact on your day to day functioning and quality of life. It can diminish the enjoyment you get from certain activities. Keep you from doing the things you want or need to do. Over time, chronic pain can negatively impact your self-esteem. This can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, grief/loss, depression and anxiety. We discuss each of these emotional reactions in more depth below:
Many people with chronic pain feel angry and frustrated at their situation. Anger may be directed towards yourself or a part of your body for not being able to do the things you used to do, or towards the world/others for causing your injury. People with chronic pain can become irritable and may be prone to anger outbursts, which can affect their relationships and the people around them.
People with chronic pain often feel that they have let the people around them down. You may feel as though you’re a burden to others or as though you’re not carrying your weight around the house or workplace. You may blame yourself for not getting things done or for missing social events you otherwise would have attended.
Chronic pain can lead to many losses, including the loss of function, enjoyment, freedom and opportunity. You may feel as though your situation is unfair and that you’ve been robbed of the chance to live life as you would like. Many people with chronic pain go through a grieving process, as they come to terms with the loss of their ‘old life’ and future plans.
It is common for people with chronic pain to also experience depression. The impact of chronic pain on a person’s life can trigger depression, which then magnifies the pain and creates a vicious cycle. Pain may cause you to withdraw from activities, such as exercise and social activity, which are protective for mental health.
Chronic pain may also go hand in hand with anxiety. Studies suggest that chronic pain can increase the risk of anxiety disorders, and vice versa. In addition, the loss of function from chronic pain may increase stress and worry and people may experience anxiety in response to feeling a lack of control over their future.
The link between your emotions and pain is complex. When you are in Pain Psychology, you are more likely to have difficult emotions, poor sleep and heightened stress. The presence of difficult emotions, lack of sleep and stress can also make your pain worse. Your psychologist or psychiatrist at Epsychiatry will help you to understand and break your pain cycle.
Pain medication can be highly effective for reducing pain in the short term. Following surgery or an injury, pain killers can help keep your pain at bay. Also, it can make the next few days bearable. However, in the long term, pain medication does not tend to lead to a significant reduction in pain and may actually be harmful.
Certainly, all medications are associated with risks and side effects. Pain medications are no exception and can cause things like nausea, sedation, memory impairment and constipation. Some pain medications can be addictive and cause organ damage over time. Paradoxically, research has shown that prolonged use of certain pain medications can actually maintain and worsen Pain Psychology.
Evidence suggests that people who are actively involved in their Pain Psychology fare better and are less disabled as a result of their pain, compared to those who just rely on medication.
In addition to accessing professional support, implementing the following tips may bring you some relief. Certainly, this will help you to better manage your pain:
Moderate exercise and stretching will help keep your muscles well-conditioned and may ward off pain. Speak with your physiotherapist or doctor about a tailored exercise plan. Start slow and do not push beyond your healthy limit.
When we are tense, our pain tends to be more noticeable and severe. So, use yoga or deep breathing techniques to reduce muscle tension and help you relax. Relaxation techniques should ideally be used on a routine basis, but may also be implemented in response to an acute worsening of pain.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, becoming aware of and accepting your pain is a key part of therapy for reducing it. You can learn mindfulness tips and strategies online or with your therapist, which you can incorporate into your day to help you cope better.
Better sleep makes adversity easier to tolerate and the next day easier to muster. Sleep hygiene is a collection of strategies, which together, help to improve sleep. Poor sleep is a problem faced by many chronic pain sufferers. By learning strategies to optimise your sleep, you may find that your pain becomes easier to manage.
Some people experience pain relief with massage or acupuncture. In addition to physical benefits, these treatments also promote relaxation and stress reduction. Some private health insurance providers offer policies that cover these forms of treatment.
Our team of friendly mental health clinicians will gladly support you in managing your chronic pain. Certainly, because psychological therapy and medications are important aspects of an evidence-based treatment plan for chronic pain.
Certainly, our psychologists can help you learn strategies to better cope with day to day tasks and the impacts of chronic pain. Chronic pain associates with difficulties in problem-solving, self-confidence, relationships, illness acceptance, task completion/moderating activity and intense emotions (e.g. anxiety, anger, depression). Our psychologists can help you gain skills to overcome these difficulties.
Chronic pain often exists alongside other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Our clinicians will gladly help you with any co-occurring psychological difficulties that exist in addition to your Pain Psychology. Moreover, at Epsychiatry, we provide a range of mental health treatments and medication to suit your needs.
We understand the importance of a multi-disciplinary team approach for pain management. We work closely with GPs and other pain specialists in treating chronic pain. With your consent, we will liaise with your broader care team to ensure you receive the best possible care.
We encourage you to seek a referral through your GP and/or give us a call to make an enquiry. Or book your initial appointment.
It’s important that you have a supportive GP. Someone who has an understanding of your pain and its impact on your life. Your doctor can coordinate your care with a Medicare-funded management plan. This plan will allow you to access a Medicare rebate for pain treatment from a psychologist and/or physiotherapist. Your doctor will also be able to provide a referral to a psychiatrist for Pain Psychology. Psychiatry sessions also attract a Medicare rebate.
Speak to your GP about a referral to see a psychologist or psychiatrist at Espychiatry for help with your pain Psychology. You can contact our friendly support team with any queries, or to book an appointment.