Psychology of Pain
Although it may not seem that way, short-term acute pain can be a good thing as it is the body’s way of warning us that there is a problem that needs to be corrected.
Pain signals travel from the affected area via the peripheral nervous system to the brain. This enables us to respond to the problem, correct it and avoid long-term problems like chronic pain.
Unfortunately, if the body doesn’t fully repair the original injury (for example, we continue to use the affected limb) then the acute pain can shift from being a short term issue to becoming a longer-term chronic pain problem.
This happens because the body adapts to accommodate the pain, possibly changing its posture, and the temporary feelings of pain shift from the peripheral nervous system to become established in the brain. This can cause the brain to become oversensitive to pain. Stress in other parts of the body may then be ‘felt’ at the site of the original injury as the body ‘learns’ to hold itself awkwardly in a counter-productive attempt to avoid further pain. In these cases the pain is no longer a helpful short-term warning signal and has become an unhelpful learned behaviour.
Many Pain Care Clinic clients come to us because they are beginning to doubt themselves or because those around them believe their pain is ‘all in the mind’. This may be because their acute pain has shifted to become chronic pain. In these cases our complementary therapy sessions are focussed around releasing the restrictions and postural imbalances, so the mind-body can learn to override the learned pain behaviour by noticing fresh pain-free movement.
Complementary therapy is perfectly possible for those clients who have a diagnosed permanent medical condition causing chronic pain. In these cases complementary therapy is focussed on reducing the immediate pain by working on muscles and other soft tissues to reduce the feelings of pain and maximise pain-free time between treatments.
With a regular course of therapy such as myofascial release it is possible for a client with a diagnosis of a chronic pain condition such as fibromyalgia to live an active and substantially pain-free life.
The serious impact of chronic pain conditions on a client’s ability to work and their enjoyment of free time and family life should not be under-estimated. Not least because chronic pain tends to have a vicious circle effect: The more pain a client feels, the more tense they become, the more tense they become the more pressure there is on their body, and so the more pain they feel and the more pain they feel the more conscious they become of the pain, and so on. Feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and depression are common among those with chronic pain conditions.
For many clients having medical treatment and hands-on complementary therapy is enough to help them cope. For others, particularly those with chronic pain as the result of an ongoing medical condition, the challenges are greater. Some find that, in addition to medical treatment and hands-on complementary therapy, talk therapies can help them find positive ways to cope. Talk therapies can be offered to clients as part of Pain Care Clinic and we can arrange reputable and confidential talk therapy referrals for all clients at any time.