Pain can be a debilitating experience, often leaving you feeling out of control, hopeless, scared, and unmotivated. It can be all consuming and keeping you from living the joyous and energetic life that you wish.
A lot of people that experience chronic pain can relate to these symptoms and almost start to think about the worst case scenario if the pain doesn’t go away. It can also alter your relationships with others such as, family, friends and work colleagues. Chronic Pain can even have a significant impact on how you treat yourself. You may have a feeling of shame and/or weakness, thinking that you should be stronger and able to deal with the pain. If you have experienced any of these thoughts or feelings, you’re not alone. This is all normal and you don’t have to suffer in silence.
As a physician I found that incorporating a form of talk therapy in conjunction with your physical treatment plan can have a better success rate at reducing or alleviating your chronic pain symptoms.
As humans we hold emotions in our bodies, usually caused by past trauma. Trauma can be defined as anything that is minor all the way up to a more catastrophic event or experience.
Trauma is processed differently by each person. There is no one way that is good or bad, it’s just each person’s individual journey. When someone goes through a traumatic event they tend to hold these emotions in their bodies, which can take a toll on our systems and lead to chronic pain. What then can happen is, the pain that is felt or experienced can then have an affect on our mental health, making the pain experience worse, and a vicious cycle is created.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is one from of therapy that can have a profound difference on your pain symptoms. It not only treats the psychogenic pain, but also the physiological pain. The process of CBT is to change negative thoughts and behaviors to change your awareness of pain and develop better coping skills.
When we think about pain and focus in on how it is affecting us, we can actually make the pain worse by increasing our stress response which then increases our pain chemicals in the brain.
While finding a therapist can be challenging, here are some steps you can take on your own to start the healing process. I will also give some resources later in the article to help you find a therapist that is right for you.
Steps to take at home:
- Make a decision to take action towards the pain. Set your mind to get better and find a solution to reduce or relieve your pain. This helps to gain back some control and get you motivated to get better. It gives you something to work towards. Remember, not to get discouraged if you have bad days. This is normal and it’s best to keep moving forward.
- Keep a pain journal. This will help you document specifics throughout the day that could be contributing to your pain and causing symptoms to worsen. A pain journal is also great to bring to your therapist’s office to go over how emotions and certain self-talk could be contributing to your pain.
- You can do this therapy from the comfort of your own home. Finding a therapist may be hard and expensive. If this is the case there are several books to help teach you different ways to use CBT on a one-on-one basis.
How to find a therapist:
Whether you’re looking for a therapist to help heal past trauma, help you cope with chronic pain, or help to offer guidance in life, here are some resources to help you find the person that’s right for you. It’s a good idea to conduct an interview with a therapist first to make sure he/or she is what you’re looking for.
Cognitive Behavioral Books
- CBT for Chronic Pain and Psychological Well-Being; A Skills Training Manual Integrating DBT,ACT, Behavioral Activation and Motivational Interviewing – Mark Carlson
- A Therapist’s Guide to Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Jeffrey A. Cully
- The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians – Jeff Riggenbach Talk therapy of any kind can be beneficial in helping to treat your chronic pain. I highly recommend looking at the resources above to find a therapist in your area. You can also schedule an appointment with myself to go over different therapy and what would be right for you and your chronic pain treatment.
Here’s to good health and less pain,
Dr. Ashu Goyle