Pain Therapy

Back Pain ManDo you suffer from persistent pain, that seldom seems to let up?

Perhaps you have a chronic medical condition that causes you pain much of the time. Or you suffered an injury some time back, and the pain never really went away.

Do you have to take strong medication every day yet you still feel pain? Is your pain causing you to suffer – even ruining your life?

If any of the above sounds familiar, or you have ongoing pain of any type then please read on. There may be a whole or partial solution based in psychology.

Important Note

Anyone with strong physical pain should always see their medical doctor first for diagnosis of the pain’s cause, and prescription of a course of treatment to deal with it.

If, after that, your pain is resistant to medical treatment or your quality of life is not what you desire. a psychologist may be able to help.

About Pain & Psychology

There are two main types of pain:

  1. Body injury pain (called Nociceptive pain) – this type of pain occurs when body tissues are damaged by injury or disease, and sensors in those tissues transmit signals through the nervous system to the brain.
  2. Nerve damage pain (called Neuropathic pain) – occurs when nerves are damaged, and pain signals continue to be transmitted to the brain.

Both of the above types of pain can be further classified according to how long the pain has lasted:

  • Acute pain is felt when injury is new; it is short term. As the body tissue repairs itself, acute pain gradually disappears. When all repairs have been done there should no longer be any acute pain.
  • Chronic or persistent pain goes on and on. It lasts months, years, or even a lifetime. This may be because a person has a chronic medical condition, such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc, or it may be because of nerve damage, or because the brain is still protecting a previously injured part.

You can think of the impact pain has on you in two parts:

  1. Physical – as described above, strong pain resulting from some form of damage caused by injury or disease.
  2. Emotional - which can be as bad as the physical pain itself, or even make the suffering caused by pain much greater. The emotional element may be created by underlying psychological issues combined with stress, distress and emotional hurt associated with experiencing:
  • Mental suffering related to feeling the strong pain;
  • The shock and stress of experiencing an injury or a chronic medical condition/disease;
  • Life disruptions and/or losses caused by the pain.

Strange as it may seem ALL pain in generated by the brain even though it is felt in the tissue.

For instance, if you hit your hand with a hammer by accident, pain is felt in the hand at the site of the injury caused by the hammer. But the pain is generated in the brain in response to the brain’s judgement of your personal safety. If it hurts you will not want to hit it again!

You may have heard about the mountain climber whose arm became wedged high up on a mountain cliff. He could not escape and would have died unless he cut his own arm off, which he did with his pocket knife. Later, when asked how he did it, he mentioned that he did not feel really strong pain while he was cutting. That was likely because his brain knew it was the only way for him to survive.

Or then there is the story about the young Mum who had a motor accident while driving her four year old home from preschool. She badly broke her leg in the crash, but could smell petrol and feared for the safety of her child and herself, managing to carry the child 50 metres away before collapsing. She later said she did not feel the pain of her broken leg until after she reached safety.

How Pain Therapy Works

These stories illustrate the fact that the brain uses pain as a protective device. If you would be in more danger by experiencing pain and being unable to move then, as the stories show, you don’t feel the pain until later. The brain plays a key role in any pain that you experience.

pain managementThe reverse is also true. If for any reason your brain thinks you, or a part of you, needs protection – then you may feel pain even if there is no remaining tissue or nerve damage. Make no mistake, the pain you feel is genuine pain! In extreme cases, such pain can completely disable a person.

Because pain is generated in the brain, working as described above, people suffering chronic pain can often be helped by an experienced psychologist.

Firstly, the psychologist can help the person better deal with the emotional elements of their chronic pain.

And secondly, for those whose brain is protecting them with pain even when their doctor can find no medical reason for the pain, a psychologist may be able to help correct the problem.

What does Pain Therapy involve?

There is much more to the story of how pain works in the human body. I have been extensively trained and have much experience in helping people deal with chronic pain. I have helped people to:

  • Return to a more liveable life, by helping them to minimise their suffering.
  • Identify and deal with underlying and deeply buried emotional issues, that have contributed to their experience of pain.
  • Even get off surgery waiting lists, by working with them to improve their day to day comfort – to the extent that they and their doctor felt that surgery was no longer indicated.

At a first consultation, I will take your pain history and discuss with you the psychological prognosis for your condition. If indicated, and you agree, I will recommend a psychological treatment plan to assist you back onto the road of a liveable life, in conjunction with you doctor and other relevant allied health professional (if required).

Dr Malcolm Davies Learning At WorkAuthor: Dr Malcolm Davies, B.Psych.(Hons), M.Psych (Clin), Dip. Clin. Hypnosis, PhD, MASH.

Dr Malcolm Davies is a registered psychologist who holds honours, masters and doctoral degrees in psychology. If you are seeking pain therapy, he has extensive training and experience in helping people to better manage pain, and consequently enjoy a better quality of life.