Psychological Treatment for Patients With Chronic Pain

Written by: Shreya Manerkar– MA (Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : March 05, 2023

Are you or someone close to you suffering from long-lasting pain? Have you tried all possible treatments but failed? What if we tell you there is a psychological treatment for patients with chronic pain? And psychotherapy for chronic pain is extremely beneficial?

So, what are you waiting for – Let’s find out!

“Quick online learning, thanks!” Susan

92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use
$9.00 $12.00

25% discount


Chapter 1:

What Is Chronic Pain?

Let us assume you have been feeling a lot of lower back pain that leaves your body incapable of taking care of yourself. As you start taking medicine, do physiotherapy, and slowly gain control of your life, you start feeling the pain again. You start to wonder if you have fully recovered. As a result of this, you start to worry more and focus on your pain. This leads to a change in your nervous system, and you start feeling more pain. Again, you start feeling anxious and the cycle continues.

What we described above is a classical chronic pain cycle. This pattern is seen in many health issues such as arthritis and cancer. After a point, medical options may not lead to any results, but there are various psychological treatments for patients with chronic pain.

Chapter 2:

How People React to Psychological Chronic Pain

Imagine the lower back pain that we mentioned above is constant. When you try to do some things like bending down or lifting something heavy, the pain increases. You used to exercise, but the doctor has told you to stop doing heavy workouts. Moreover, going to work and sitting for a long time puts stress on your back. How would you feel? Naturally, your life has turned completely upside down.

Imagine how you would feel if you were unable to do all day-to-day activities. The psychological effects of chronic pain are listed below

  • Helplessness
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Frustration or irritation
  • Fear
  • Avoidance
  • Worry

A combination of all these feelings can lead to unhealthy behaviors. Moreover, you will avoid activities that will remind you of the pain. You will be fearful of increasing the pain and hence not engage in even the simplest of tasks.

Furthermore, you may also view your pain as “the end of the world”. When you have such an extreme outlook toward your pain, you may also look at the world as a do-or-die situation. Hence, psychotherapy for chronic pain is essential and will work on changing how you think, feel and behave.

Chapter 3:

Type of Psychological Treatments for Patients With Chronic Pain

If we look at the chronic pain cycle, we can see that our anxiety has a big role to play in how we view our pain. The more anxious we feel, the more the pain continues. Hence, we need to focus on psychological treatment options for chronic pain. There are various psychological treatments or psychotherapy methods that can help in managing this long-lasting pain. We will give you an overview of these treatment options.

Behavior Therapies:

As the name suggests, this psychotherapy works on changing unhealthy behaviors. Let us go back to the lower back pain example. Take a minute to note down all the things you avoid because you are worried about the pain. If you avoid these things because of pain, you will completely stop doing them after a point. Every time you avoid doing something, you are telling your mind this is a new response to pain. Your mind will finally accept this new behavior as normal. It is important to understand that not all responses to pain are unhealthy. Therefore, you need to understand the link between pain and your behavior to change it.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Your response to pain is made of the physical, psychological, and social aspects of your life. Chronic pain is not just the sensation you feel in the body, but all the thoughts you have and how society reacts to your pain. Therefore, you should not only focus on your behavior but also learn how to deal with your thoughts. You will also learn to identify when you start feeling this pain, how you think about it, and your feelings.

Let us assume your lower back pain increases when you have a deadline or when you have an important presentation. What does this mean? It indicates that there is some underlying stress associated with talking in front of people or meeting a deadline. And therefore, instead of avoiding the presentation, you need to work on dealing with these emotions and feelings. With the help of this psychological treatment for chronic pain you can learn to relax, change thoughts and so on.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Being mindful means being aware of yourself and your surroundings. You need to focus on disconnecting from your pain by intentionally feeling your pain. Sometimes this chronic pain increases because of stress. However, at other times there may not be a connection. Our mind does not like the discomfort we feel because of the pain. And hence, it will try to avoid any situation that makes it uncomfortable. With the use of meditation and mindfulness training, you can learn to accept these uncomfortable feelings and finally accept the pain.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

As the name suggests, this psychological treatment for chronic pain focuses on the acceptance of your thoughts and then commitment to making a healthy change. If we apply this to the lower back pain example, you must first recognize your negative thoughts and negative emotions associated with back pain. Your goal is to modify them to healthier thoughts so that you can make a change in your life. The faster you accept the negative feelings, the better will be your tolerance of the same situation in the future.

Chapter 4:

Benefits of Psychotherapy for Chronic Pain

It is clear that there is a strong link between our thoughts and chronic pain. Therefore, focusing on psychological treatment for pain is as important as taking medicine. With the help of medicine you will be able to reduce the physical sensation of pain. But, what about your feelings? How will taking a pain killer reduce the fear or worry? And hence, it is important to understand the benefits of psychotherapy for chronic pain. Here are some of the benefits:
  • Changing our negative thoughts about pain
  • Managing our emotions and mood
  • Being aware of the events that cause pain
  • Reducing stress caused due to pain
  • Learning healthy coping methods for the future
  • Relaxing during stress

Along with these treatment options, you can also enroll in our course “Chronic Pain”. This is an informative and educational course to help you deal with the above-mentioned issues and live a fulfilling life.

"Quick online learning, thanks!" Susan

92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount