Chronic pain is a type of health disorder in which the pain lasts a long time (months or years), or even never goes away. In turn, the persistence of this unpleasant sensation is able to generate the appearance of other forms of discomfort and health problems; especially anxiety and mood disorders.
In this article we will know the basic characteristics of chronic pain and its associated psychological treatmentThat is, what psychologists do to limit the discomfort generated by this disorder.
What is chronic pain?
Pain can be classified into two main categories. On the one hand, there is a sharp pain, which informs us that damage has recently occurred to one or more tissues of the body and that it disappears over days or weeks.
On the other hand, there are chronic pain, which persists most of the time for periods of more than 3 months.
This latter form of discomfort, in turn, can be divided into chronic pain of neuropathic type, in which there is no problem beyond the nervous system that can explain the pain, and chronic nociceptive pain, in which she knows a mechanism by which pain stimulus receptor cells are activated, but these persistent processes cannot be stopped and are likely to never go away completely.
So, chronic pain is a type of pain that ranges from being a symptom to a disorder in itself, because while in most cases pain has the adaptive function of warning us that something is wrong with our body, in that case the disadvantages far outweigh the possible biological utility (Sometimes non-existent, as in the case of neuropathic pain) which provides this warning sign.
One of the characteristics of chronic pain that makes it a very complex phenomenon is that its causes can be very variable, And it is possible to attribute the problem to alterations in the nerves, spinal cord or even the brain. That is, its onset may be due to dysfunction in almost all sections of the pain perception pathway, from nociceptors to the integration of pain perception in the brain.
What is clear is that chronic pain often occurs in the absence of damaged body tissueSo this is not a useful warning sign for the body, as there is no evidence that anything is beyond the pain itself.
In other cases, chronic pain it occurs as a result of a chronic illness or the main cause is not completely eliminated because it is not possible with the available technology or it is too risky. The latter is what often happens with certain types of tumors.
Psychologists and the psychological treatment of chronic pain
These are some of the strategies most used in patients with chronic pain, when they see the psychologist.
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy
When offering psychological treatment for chronic pain, it is not only necessary to look at how the pain is perceived here and now; It is also important to take into account that this health disorder can promote the onset of psychological disorders related to anxiety and depression.
Professionals Institute of Psychode Psychology, With a presence in Madrid and Alicante, let us emphasize that the adoption of bad habits of life triggered by the bad management of these emotions by the patients can increase the intensity and the duration of the pain, and it is therefore necessary to avoid that the problem does not worsen by training the person to live with these types of stimuli.
For example, chronic pain has been shown to be associated with a slightly higher rate of heart disease, perhaps due to the challenge of dealing with high amounts of stress and how that anxiety or distress can lead to. place (frenzy, sedentary lifestyle, etc.).
So, in Psychode, they stress the importance of getting patients to adopt patterns of behavior and ways of perceiving chronic pain that do not lead to loss of control on his own health.
We do this by working with patients’ ideas through cognitive restructuring, challenging unrealistic ideas and encouraging the emergence of more constructive ideas. In addition, with regard to the behavioral part, the maintenance of stimulating and absorbing environmental interaction routines is favored, so that the whole subjective experience of the subject does not revolve around pain.
2. Acceptance and commitment therapy
Pain is not a phenomenon that we perceive as passive subjects, but some of its qualities as a subjective experience are given by the ideas we associate with these stimuli.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, focusing on the idea that we don’t need to remove all imperfections from our lives but in many cases a certain level of imperfection must be accepted, Helps to integrate pain into consciousness by limiting its harmful potential. In Psychode, we are reminded that, while paradoxical, placing great emphasis on not feeling discomfort in the here and now is part of the problem with chronic pain.
In psychotherapy, there are a number of tools designed to train patients in manage your attentional focus. And can the level of pain with the same stimulus passing through a nerve vary greatly depending on what we are doing with our attentional processes.
Mindfulness is one of the most used resources at the Psychode Institute of Psychology, and helps ensure that pain is not a source of obsessive attention that causes the person to “stick” to that discomfort. In this way, it is possible to further value other elements which are also present in the conscious experience and which are of a much more neutral or positively stimulating character.
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- Moore, RA; Derry, S .; Aldington, D .; Cole, P .; Wiffen, PJ (2015). “Amitriptyline for Neuropathic Pain in Adults”. Cochrane Database Rev. 7 (7): CD008242.