Image for chronic pain articlePain is a normal, protective reaction to an injury or illness. It is a signal that it is time to pay attention to that area of your body and take care of a problem. Chronic pain is when the pain continues for weeks, months, or years. It may be related to chronic illnesses like arthritis, disorders of the nerves, or cancer pain. It may begin with an injury or short illness, but continue even when the physical damage is no longer evident.

For many, chronic pain management only includes tackling the physical symptoms of pain, but there are many cognitive, behavioral, and emotional aspects that can hamper or help healing. How you think and feel about your health or illness will impact your recovery and how much the pain will interfere with your everyday life.

Negative thought patterns like, “I’ll never get better” or “This pain stops me from doing everything” may influence the decisions you make about your healthcare. If you feel there is little to no chance of successful treatment, you may be less likely to seek beneficial treatment or may continue with unsuccessful treatments. On the other hand, if you believe success is possible, you are more likely to participate in seeking out and completing recovery treatments.

Stress can also be a major part of a pain cycle. Managing any chronic condition is stressful enough on its own. Aside from the stress of the illness itself, financial concerns and strained relationships secondary to the illness can add to stress. This regular stress stimulates physical responses in the body which can increase pain and delay healing.

Identifying these factors, learning better thought patterns, and developing better communication techniques can be important in managing chronic pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a specialized form of therapy designed to help you take these steps.