No, pain isn’t all in your head. But psychological factors do have an impact.

No, pain isn’t all in your head. But psychological factors do have an impact.

The Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability offers comprehensive webinars on chronic pain management.  In this session, Dr Ingrid Federoff explains that pain isn’t all in your head, but that psychological factors do affect the likelihood of your recovery so are worth paying attention to.

Here are eight of Dr Federoff’s key points to help you in your own care and when working with others:

Psychological Factors in Pain from CIRPD on Vimeo.

1. Collaboration is important

Pain care requires a multi-disciplinary approach: input from a range of health professionals, a contribution from the pain sufferer, and understanding from those around them.  Don’t underestimate the personal resources you have that can contribute to your own care, to the wellbeing of others and even to the knowledge base of health care providers.

2. Depression is more likely if there has been trauma

Motor vehicle accident victims are more likely to suffer pain and a reduced quality of life, when compared to others with matched physical severity of injury. This shows that trauma is more than the physical injury: your beliefs about the world being a safe place have been shaken.

3. Listen

What is your body telling you?  What beliefs do you now have about the world and yourself?  For health care providers: what is your client really asking for when they say “I’m in pain”?

4. Understand a bit of science

Knowing what science says is happening in your body when you’re in pain can help you feel calmer about what’s going on and learn to “switch off” the pain response when it’s appropriate.  Lorimer Mosley delivers entertaining talks on pain, including his TEDx Adelaide talk, but don’t just take his word for it: come to your own understanding by considering the research and check to see if it correlates with your own experience.

5. Look at what you can do

Give yourself permission to shift your attention to the positives, such as what you are able to do, rather than always worrying about what you can’t.

6. Give yourself permission to rest, even if you can’t sleep

For example, you might find that sleep is a problem but you can take rest and relaxation to fill in some of the gaps.

7. Give yourself permission to enjoy life, even if you can’t do the dishes

Gradually concentrate on other things, like people you love to spend time with and activities that bring you pleasure.  You are allowed to enjoy yourself, even if the beds are unmade and the floors unswept.

8. Give yourself permission to worry

Allocate a time slot to think about your worries and work through them.  By learning to contain your worries, thinking through them logically, and factoring in time for the things you enjoy, you train your brain to see the world clearly and to understand what you need to thrive.

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