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.
As we’ve discussed in an earlier post, not all pain clinics are alike. To be sure, all pain clinics provide therapies aimed at reducing pain. Some, however, don’t stop there. They set out to systematically coach patients to cope better with pain that remains chronic.
A central tenet of chronic pain rehabilitation is that what initially caused your pain is often not now the only thing that's maintaining your pain on a chronic course. Let’s unpack this important statement. It’s no accident that healthcare providers commonly refer to chronic pain syndromes as complex chronic pain or complicated chronic pain.
Coping-based healthcare is often misunderstood in society and, as a result, it is commonly neglected by healthcare providers and patients alike. Examples of such care are chronic pain rehabilitation for pain disorders, cardiac rehabilitation for heart disease, psychotherapy for mental health disorders, or diabetic education for diabetes. These therapies are often the last thing that healthcare providers recommend or the last thing people are willing to try, even though they are typically some of the most effective treatments for their respective conditions.
No doubt, the words of this title have been uttered countless times by countless people with chronic pain. In my work in chronic pain rehabilitation, someone tends to say it to me most everyday. It often comes when discussing the effectiveness of chronic pain rehabilitation, which focuses on coaching people how to self-manage pain.
Often in discussions of chronic pain and its treatments, self-management gets neglected as a viable option. It gets forgotten about. Or perhaps it just never comes to mind when patients or providers talk about the ways to successfully manage pain. Instead, stakeholders in the field tend to focus on the use of medications or interventional procedures or surgeries.
We live in an interesting time within the field of pain management. We literally have two competing ways of understanding the nature of pain – what it is and how it works and what to do about it.
Recent data in the Lancet show that as societies become increasingly industrialized around the world, rates of low back pain, migraine, depression, obesity and type 2 diabetes increase (among other conditions). It's an interesting commentary on the social determinants of health.
In the last post, we discussed the nature of perfectionism and the problems associated with it. Specifically, we reviewed how perfectionism is problematic and how perfectionism leads to poor coping with chronic pain. In this post, let’s review some basic ways to begin to overcome perfectionism.
While clinical lore is that perfectionists are more prone to the development of chronic pain, it may just be that perfectionists are more likely to seek care for their chronic pain. Reason? Perfectionists with chronic pain are more prone to behavioral exacerbations of pain as well as anxiety and depression. Let’s see how.
Coping gets short shrift in our healthcare system. We don’t spend a lot of time or money on it. Instead, we devote the vast majority of our healthcare resources to various procedures and medications that attempt to cure conditions, or at the very least attempt to get rid of the symptoms that on-going health conditions cause. We hardly spend any time or money on what patients themselves can do to keep the conditions from disrupting their lives.
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