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Understanding Chronic Pain

Pain is a natural human experience that can occur due to injury, chronic stress, or medical complications. When this pain stays with us longer than medically expected, then this can become known as chronic pain or persistent pain.  Managing and living with chronic pain is always a challenge though therapy can provide practical strategies to help us live a meaningful and fulfilling life despite the pain. 

What is Chronic Pain?

Pain is a natural human experience that can occur due to injury, chronic stress, or medical complications. Normally when we notice this pain, we might seek treatment and the pain subsides after a time. If this pain extends much longer than the expected recovery time, then further issues can develop.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that has lasted longer than medically expected (e.g. >10-12 weeks with a typical broken limb) or has an unknown origin but lasting >3-6 months.

Chronic pain can have a significant impact on people’s quality of life and daily functioning. The long-term experience of pain can also create other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance use issues. When in pain, people can find it hard to regulate their emotions and they may lash out at their loved ones, which can lead to ongoing conflict or separation.

How many people are affected by Chronic Pain?

According to Pain Australia, in 2018, 3.24 million Australians lived with chronic pain. 44.6% of these Australians also lived with depression and anxiety.

Rates of depression are 4x higher for people with chronic pain than those without pain.

How can a Psychologist help?

Psychologists with experience in chronic pain can help as our brain plays a key part in how our bodies experience the impact of pain. It’s very important to note that it is not “all in your head” (as some people might tell us), but rather, the science tells us that "your mind has something to do with it". 

 

That’s where Psychologists come in as we are very interested in the impact that our thoughts can have on our physical experiences. 

Psychologists may use approaches like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help change the relationship we have with our thoughts around pain. Together, with you and your medical team, a Psychologist can help proactively build strategies to manage the experience of chronic pain so that we may lead meaningful and fulfilling lives despite the pain.

 

Conculsion

Chronic pain is a common health issue that not only affects people’s physical but also mental health. Many Australians experience some form of chronic pain in their lives but may not seek treatment. Psychology can provide a significant benefit from those who suffer from chronic pain, especially if received in the context of a multidisciplinary team. 

 

For more information or to book an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists, call the team at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne on (03) 8330 5588 or email us on hello@reimaginepsychology.melbourne.