All pain encompasses both physicial and psychological factors.
Acute pain is usually mostly physical in nature, but chronic pain
has a significant psychological component. Treatment for the person
with chronic pain should consist of both medical and psychological
interventions; however, psychological treatment should supplement
medical care--not replace it.
For individuals with chronic pain, there is a strong likelihood
that, in addition to pain, they are experiencing various levels
of emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, anger, helplessness,
and hopelessness. Emotional symptoms usually develop when, over
time, medical treatments do not eliminate or substantially reduce
pain and because the pain is likely to result in significant lifestyle
changes or disability. Emotional distress can actually increase
the intensity of someone's pain; however, the presence of emotional
factors does not mean that the person's pain is imaginary or that
he/she cannot "handle" pain.
Psychological treatment goals are designed to help an individual
learn how to predict and manage the pain cycle, how to use coping
skills to minimize pain, and how to maximize involvement in positive
life experiences, despite the presence of chronic pain. Psychological
treatment for chronic pain focuses on the emotional toll one experiences
living with pain on a daily basis. A major focus of treatment involves
assisting individuals in learning how to view themselves as whole
and complete individuals apart from pain that has become a central
part of their life. Secondary factors, such as functional limitations,
lifestyle changes, financial stress, family/social problems, and
multiple losses are also seen as part of the pain package.