Psychosocial Contributors to Chronic Pain

Chronic pain talk

One of the most misunderstood and unheard patient populations are those struggling with chronic pain.  Common findings with chronic pain are symptoms lasting >3 months, hypersensitization and spreading pain.  These individuals have been to several specialists with no clear answers as to why they are hurting and cannot find treatments that give long term relief.  The medical model for treating pain often focuses only on the physiological side of pain and neglects the psychosocial contributors that can have a huge effect on pain.

What’s the purpose of pain?

Understanding pain is imperative to the healing process. Pain is a protective behavioral response. Pain is produced by the brain when it perceives that danger to the body exists and action is required. These dangerous events can be actual or perceived. Pain is good and healthy but living in pain is not.

Our body has a living, breathing nervous system and it acts like an alarm system.  When you step on a nail your alarm goes off, sends a message to the brain saying you have a nail in your foot. Once you get the nail out and put a bandage over your foot the alarm eventually calms back down. Sometimes the alarm never goes back down and stays extra sensitive. When this happens, normal activities that you were able to do before the injury now cause pain. 

Why did the alarm system stay extra sensitive?

Things can occur around an injury or things can be going on in a person’s life that can subsequently keep the alarm elevated.  Family issues or job issues can keep the alarm system heightened. Having ongoing pain that is not well understood can be scary and contribute to chronic pain.  Fear and anxiety of future consequences from having debilitating pain can also contribute to pain. Receiving multiple explanations and having multiple failed treatments with injections and medications can be frustrating and confusing, causing the alarm system to stay extra sensitive. These are only a few examples of possible reasons why a person continues to have pain.

How do we treat chronic pain?

The Center’s Pain Program helps patients uncover all contributors to pain via the biopsychosocial model.  Our program designs an individually tailored plan that addresses all root causes to an individual’s pain and helps people take back their life. Learn more about our Chronic Pain Program by watching this video.

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