Therapists are discovering that painkillers can be a powerful analgesic when doctors and patients are concerned about their negative side effects.
Chronic pain is a serious problem in the US between one-third and two-thirds of adults suffer from chronic pain, with most suffering moderate or severe problems.
There are many types of chronic pain, including migraines, herpes zoster (also known as shingles), neuropathic pain, phantom limb pain, and regional body pain.
Chronic pain often persists beyond the actual tissue damage to which it points.
Many sufferers of chronic pain first seek relief by using analgesic drugs such as opioids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
But the relief these drugs provide is often only temporary, and they can have potentially dangerous side effects.
What is the role of a pain psychologist?
If you are struggling with chronic pain, you may benefit from the assistance of a psychologist.
A psychologist can help you to develop a treatment plan that will address the root causes of your pain and help you to manage your symptoms effectively.
Some of the ways in which a psychologist can help you to manage chronic pain include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help you to manage chronic pain.
CBT focuses on the way that you think about and interpret your pain. It can help you to develop coping skills and to learn how to reduce your pain.
Exercise can be an effective way to manage chronic pain.
A psychologist can help you to develop an exercise program that is tailored to your needs. Exercise can help to improve your mood, reduce stress, and improve your overall health.
Pain Management Skills
A psychologist can teach you how to manage your pain effectively. This may include techniques such as relaxation exercises, deep breathing, and biofeedback. A psychologist can also teach you about your medications and help you to make decisions about how best to use them.
Reduce Your Stress
Chronic pain is stressful, and stress can exacerbate your symptoms.
A psychologist may be able to help you with stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, massage therapy, and guided imagery.
Getting enough sleep can be difficult if you are struggling with chronic pain, and chronic fatigue is a common symptom of many different types of pain.
A psychologist may be able to teach you relaxation techniques that can help you get better quality sleep, which will in turn improve your mood.
They may also work with you on making changes to your sleep schedule if it is interfering with your ability to get a full night’s rest.
During a psychological evaluation, a psychologist will ask you about the nature and intensity of your pain, how much your pain interferes with your life, and what situations or thoughts make it worse.
They may also ask about any past experiences that you have had with pain and how you coped, as well as your medical history.
They will also ask about any personal or family history of depression, anxiety, addiction, or other mental health issues.
Is it possible to get better using only drugs?
Currently, research suggests that psychological interventions are an essential part of chronic pain treatment.
Is the combination of drugs and therapy more effective?
If you are struggling with chronic pain, it can be tempting to use medications as your only form of treatment.
However, research suggests that psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy may be just as effective in some cases.
Since chronic pain tends to be long-term, a psychologist can help you to develop a treatment plan that will be effective over the long term.
They can also provide support and guidance as you work through your pain.
If you are struggling with chronic pain, please contact a psychologist today for more information.
What is the best way to find a pain psychologist?
If you are interested in seeking the help of a pain psychologist, your first step is to talk to your doctor.
They may be able to refer you to a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of chronic pain.
You can also contact the American Psychological Association (APA) or your state psychological association to find a list of psychologists who specialize in this area.
You can search online for “psychologists” and the name of your city, and contact one directly.
There are also companies that will match you with a psychologist in your area who specializes in chronic pain.
What should you anticipate?
When you meet with a pain psychologist, you can expect to discuss the nature and intensity of your pain, how it affects your life and any thoughts or behaviors that seem to make it worse.
You will also be asked about your medical history, as well as any personal or family history of mental health issues.
The psychologist will likely ask you to keep a journal of your activities, thoughts, feelings, and pain.
They will also ask about any medications you are taking and how they may be affecting you emotionally.
In addition to this, the psychologist will most likely teach you some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or guided imagery that can help ease your pain.
The psychologist might also have you try some strategies designed to improve your ability to function despite the pain.
They might teach you how to reduce your need for perfection, break up big projects into manageable parts, or set realistic goals that are attainable even when you are in pain.
What if you can’t meet with a psychologist in person?
If you are unable to meet with a pain psychologist in person, there are other options available.
There are many self-help books and CDs that can help you learn cognitive behavioral therapy skills.
There are also websites that offer online counseling and support groups for people living with chronic pain.
Your doctor or therapist may also be able to refer you to a pain psychologist who offers services through phone or webcam, such as those offered by the American Chronic Pain Association.
There is a growing body of research that suggests the chronic pain and mental health fields can benefit from each other.
Psychologists work with chronic pain sufferers to help them learn new skills and coping strategies that will be effective not only for their physical symptoms but also for their emotional wellbeing.
A psychologist can provide support, guidance, and encouragement as you work through your pain.
If you are unable to meet with a psychologist in person, there are many other options available, such as self-help books, CDs, websites, and phone or webcam counseling.