Murray J. McAllister, PsyD
Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is a pain psychologist and consults to health systems on improving pain. He is the editor and founder of the Institute for Chronic Pain (ICP). The ICP is an educational and public policy think tank. In its mission is to lead the field in making pain management more empirically supported, the ICP provides academic quality information on chronic pain that is approachable to patients and their families.
When it comes to the management of chronic pain, good coping is quite possibly the most powerful intervention we have to be able to reduce pain and improve function. It’s typically what accounts for the ability to manage pain without opioid medications or remain at work full-time despite having pain. In short, it can make tolerable what was once intolerable pain.
Oftentimes, however, people won’t believe it.
The meaning of "chronic" and why the healthcare system refuses to accept the chronicity of chronic pain
We live in an age of chronic illness. Conditions like heart disease, diabetes, asthma and chronic pain are common. All these health conditions are chronic. The term chronic means that a condition has no cure and so will last indefinitely.
It’s common to complain about healthcare and our healthcare system. We complain about our health insurance and we also complain about reforms to the health insurance industry. We complain about the long wait times to see a provider. We also complain about the short amount of time that we actually get once we see a provider. We complain about how much money we pay for healthcare. We also complain about how much money certain providers and insurance executives get paid. With our healthcare system so large and complex, most anyone can find something to complain about.
Opioid, or narcotic, pain medications are beneficial in a number of ways. Terminal cancer patients, for instance, benefit from their use. The short-term use of opioid pain medications is beneficial, especially while recovering from an acute injury or a surgery. However, the long-term use of opioid medications for chronic, noncancer, pain remains controversial. While a number of issues contribute to this controversy, the main reason for the controversy is addiction. Opioid pain medications are addictive.
This controversy makes opioid pain medications a highly sensitive issue for patients who take them.
What is trauma?
Trauma is the psychological and bodily response to experiencing an overwhelmingly terrible event. Some examples of events that can lead to trauma are the following:
What is a sleep disturbance?
Patients with chronic pain frequently experience sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbance is a catchall phrase for any type of problem in sleeping. The most common forms of sleep disturbances in patients with chronic pain are the following:
What is depression?
From time to time, most people feel down, blue, unhappy, or irritable. These kinds of depressed moods come and go in response to the normal problems of life.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotion. Everyone has anxiety on occasion. It is the emotion that people have when something dangerous might happen. Anxiety is closely related to fear. Fear occurs when something dangerous is happening. Anxiety, though, occurs when something dangerous is pending, and hasn’t happened yet, though it could.
What are complications to pain?
A number of problems are associated with living with chronic pain.
What is stigma?
Stigma is the social disapproval of a characteristic of a person and, typically, the characteristic is not changeable or not easily changeable. The disapproval is a critical judgment that an individual is not normal and has less worth than those in the norm. A natural response to stigma is shame and shame-based defensive anger.
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