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The Link Between Pain Management and Psychology

Recent studies indicate that chronic pain associated with a physical injury may be influenced by stress and emotional issues. In addition, several studies have found that 15-30% of patients with chronic pain also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Get the facts on the link between pain management and psychology.

In order to effectively reduce your pain, it is important to understand the link between psychology and pain management.

Survival Mode Can Lead to Chronic Pain
Those who undergo a traumatic event may find that their nervous system has trouble reverting back to a “normal,” relaxed mode. When individuals experience a traumatic event, their nervous system will often enter a “survival mode”, where the sympathetic nervous system takes control. During this time, the body remains stressed and cortisol is constantly released, causing an increase in blood pressure and blood sugar. If the nervous system remains in survival mode, the body’s immune system can lose its ability to heal, leading to the manifestation of physical symptoms and chronic pain.

How a Patient’s Perceptions of Pain Affect Their Treatment
Each patient’s beliefs and perceptions regarding their pain will influence the effectiveness of their treatment. In fact, pain can be brought on by psychological issues. The management of that pain will also be greatly influenced by three factors:

  • The patient’s perceptions and expectations of how well the pain will be controlled
  • The patient’s understanding of the problem and treatment plan
  • The patient’s beliefs regarding the pain intensity

Psychological Issues Associated With Chronic Pain
Many patients who experience chronic pain may also suffer from debilitating psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. Their lives may become centered on their pain, and soon the pain may be all they are able to think about. This can lead to a decreased quality of life, a loss of interest in hobbies and activities they once enjoyed, and a gradual withdrawal from the people they love.

Who Reports the Highest Pain Levels?
Pain is the most common reason people go to the doctor, and the most common reason for self-medication. The intensity of the pain will determine the extent that pain may interfere or disrupt a person’s normal activities and behaviors. In many cases, reported pain has no clearly identifiable cause. There is wide latitude in each patient’s perception of their pain, and their ability to deal with pain. Although it is not clinically understood, statistics show that women have reported experiencing more severe levels of pain, more frequent pain, and pain of longer duration than men.

The True Function of Pain
Physiologically, the function of physical pain is to let a person know there is a problem. As highlighted previously, psychological and emotional stressors influence both treatment plans and an individual’s lifestyle during recovery. Pain management experts may institute multiple treatment modalities, such as psychotherapy and physical therapy, in order to help patients reduce their pain and regain their independence again.

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