Having worked with the mental health and addiction population for many years, one thing that seems to be a common theme is chronic pain. Traditionally, physical pain has been treated solely with medications anywhere from NSAIDs to highly-potent opioids. Other solutions include physical therapy and surgical procedures. Often times these treatment methods don’t fully solve the patient’s issue and those afflicted are left to their own devices to deal with their condition on their own.
Please note, the paragraph above discusses the physical management of pain, because that is what most providers and their patients believe it to be despite patient reports of vague, somewhat neuropathic, generalized pain without preceding injuries or solid medical explanations (Hanscom, 2017). What are they missing?
Although physical pain is very real, over time, those who suffer from chronic pain can’t let it go; it’s all they think about. Chronic pain destroys lives, not just the individual experiencing the pain, but those that surround them suffer as well which, at times, can leave loved ones in isolation. It is not unusual for a chronic pain patient to develop depression. Some patients end up using more medication than prescribed and get discharged from pain clinics. Some patients treat themselves with illicit drugs such as heroin once they no longer have access to prescribed medication but are still in pain. What are they missing?
Back in Control, a book written by Dr. David Hanscom, discusses the parts that are missing and how to overcome pain. There is no denying that physical pain is real; however, the missing part is psychological. There is a stigma regarding patients being told by providers, family and friends that it’s all in their head making the patient feel that their pain isn’t real, which hinders those who are suffering with the pain to address the issues that contribute to their continued pain. This approach reinforces hopelessness and depression which contributes even more to chronic pain issues.
Have you ever heard about Bernie Seigel and his work with cancer patients? Research some of his works. You will be amazed to learn how the mind can heal the body. One of my favorite self-care methods is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. When dealing with chronic pain, be bold “embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation” (GoodReads, 2018).
GoodReads. (2018). Bernie S. Siegel Quotes (Author of Love, Medicine & Miracles). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/683.Bernie_S_Siegel
Hanscom, D. (2017). Back in control: A surgeons roadmap out of chronic pain. Seattle, WA: Vertus Press.