Chronic pain involves the mind, body, and spirit. The common idea that pain originates at the site of the injury or disease is incorrect. The central nervous system and the mind are involved in amplifying or diminishing pain signals. Emotional and mental factors often make chronic pain worse.
Chronic pain can cause many emotions and feelings including fear, hostility, anger, depression, resentment, irritation, loneliness, and the feeling that life has spun hopelessly out of control. These emotions and feelings can break apart relationships and marriages, and can take the enjoyment out of life.
People with chronic pain often live a sedentary lifestyle that includes guarded movements and results in avoiding activity and a downward cycle of inactivity and pain. Examples of negative pain behavior that can be changed include:
- Withdrawing from social contact
- Becoming irritable or unresponsive
- Avoiding activities that were previously enjoyed
- Exaggerating grunting and groaning while making demands on family, friends, coworkers, and healthcare professionals.
Certain pain behaviors are deep-rooted within an individual. Many chronic pain patients have a history of frequent and lasting pain episodes. Certain responses to pain were reinforced during childhood. For example, a parent might give an unusually warm, nurturing hug to a child in pain. On the other hand, the parent might only respond to blatant pain signals conveyed by the child.
Behaviors can involve an individual using a pain complaint to avoid some unwanted responsibility or to avoid intimacy with a spouse. A spouse who had been feeling neglected in a marriage might secretly enjoy the good treatment and attention received because of an illness or injury. These are called secondary gains, rewards received from pain.
To help an individual change his or her pain behavior, the behavioral therapist gathers basic information about a patient’s pain behavior, then works with the patient to reduce it through educational sessions that include both the patient and family members. Family and friends are encouraged to practice positive behaviors with the patient that allows him or her to deal with pain and move on with his or her life.
Source: Prairie Spine and Pain Institute, Dr. Richard A. Kube II, MD.