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For Patients

Psychology

Pain is complex. All pain experience is influenced by both physical and psychological factors. In this way, psychological factors do not cause pain but act as ‘a volume control’, turning the intensity of pain up or down.

Your pain may, or may not, have begun following a specific event such as an injury or stressful event. You may have reacted to the pain by doing less physical activity, which has lead to reduced muscle strength and stamina, increased fatigue, as well as thoughts and feelings of frustration and hopelessness. All these factors will have turned the volume of pain up further, creating a vicious cycle. It is also common to get caught up in a pattern of doing too much and then too little. This also keeps the pain going.

Even if no obvious cause for the ongoing pain is identified, we understand that you are experiencing real pain; and a referral to a psychologist does not imply that it is ‘in your head’, ‘all psychological’ or ‘made up’. It is simply addressing the whole picture and targeting all the factors that may be contributing to your pain.

How can a clinical psychologist help me?

There is strong research evidence for the efficacy of psychological therapies, such as Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, in reducing pain and disability; restoring the ability to take part in everyday activities and improving mood.

All input is tailored to the individual, but typical aspects of assessment and intervention might include:

What you, and your family members, think, feel and do about pain.

Ways to cope effectively with pain, for example distraction; relaxation; developing more helpful ways of thinking about the pain.

How to manage daily activities, by prioritising and pacing activities and so avoiding a vicious cycle of over-doing it and under-doing it.

Reducing the impact of pain on everyday life, such as frustration & anger; low mood; anxiety; sleep disturbance; managing other stresses and worries.

The overall aim is always to enable you to regain a sense of control in managing your pain and to improve your ability to cope effectively.

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