How Psychological Counseling Can Help with Chronic Pain

How Psychological Counseling Can Help with Chronic Pain

When chronic pain plagues you day and night, and nothing you’ve tried stops it, the last thing you want to hear is “it’s all in your head.” But the truth is, some of it may be. 

That’s not to say you’re imagining your pain, but rather that your mind plays a large role in how you feel pain and how you respond to it. Your brain has the power to make your pain worse or better.

However, in order to tap into that powerful resource, you need to learn a few strategies. When other conservative treatments and medication alone don’t do enough to keep you comfortable, it may be time to partner with a physiatrist, like Dr. Stanley Mathew, who addresses your chronic pain from every angle — physical, emotional, and psychological. 

The missing link in your pain management plan

When your body hurts, it’s natural to look to traditional physical medicine to stop it. That may include drugs, physical therapy, and rehabilitation, depending on what’s causing it. These are all effective approaches, and they’re modalities we offer here at American Rehabilitation Center in Dubuque and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

But there’s a key aspect of your care that may be missing from this traditional lineup of treatments — psychological counseling. Dr. Mathew passionately believes in the mind’s ability to help the body heal, and also in its ability to exacerbate pain.

That’s why we offer psychological counseling to our patients suffering from severe or chronic pain. 

How psychological counseling can decrease your pain

Over 100 million Americans experience chronic pain. That’s more than those who suffer from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined. And living with pain day in and day out takes its toll on your moods, feelings, and behaviors — the precise areas covered by psychology. 

As a physiatrist, Dr. Mathew focuses on caring for you as a whole person, rather than a set of symptoms, and that means part of your treatment may be psychological counseling. Often, talking about your pain, when it occurs, how it makes you feel, what you sacrifice because of it, and how others perceive you can help in your management of it.

Through psychological counseling, we can help you recognize the triggers that cause flare-ups so you can prepare yourself for them rather than being caught off guard. We can also teach you strategies to cope with your pain better by changing the way you think about it and breaking the cycle of pain and negative emotions. 

Studies show that engaging the mind in pain therapy delivers significant results. Here are some examples:

Guided relaxation exercises

When you can make yourself relax in response to pain, it lowers your blood pressure and heart rate and eases muscle tension. Special breathing and visualization techniques can help you learn to relax when you need to the most.

Meditation or prayer

One of the best ways to relax and reduce your own pain is through meditation and prayer. Studies have shown that the brain scans of people who engage in meditation and prayer regularly have lower activity in the area of their brain associated with pain. They also reveal that the area of the brain that controls thoughts is more active than in those who don’t meditate.

Rethinking your pain

It makes perfect sense that your pain produces negative feelings. But when those negative feelings take over your daily thoughts, they can become part of your pain problem. 

Learning how to switch your thought patterns from negative and hopeless to positive and optimistic can go a long way in reducing your pain and enabling you to function more fully despite it.

The full treatment for your chronic pain

At American Rehabilitation Center, we don’t treat your chronic pain with psychological counseling alone; we have a broad spectrum of additional evidence-based treatments that pull from multidisciplinary fields. 

Depending on the source and severity of your pain, your treatment plan may include:

These are just a few of the ways we address acute and long-term pain, and we often use them in combination with one another, especially psychological counseling. The complementary approaches tag team your pain and tackle it on multiple fronts.

If you’ve been suffering with chronic pain and are searching for the missing link in your treatment plan, schedule a consultation with Dr. Mathew at either our Cedar Rapids or Dubuque, Iowa locations. Call or book online today. Relief is close at hand. 

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