The goal of the pain management psychologist is to provide timely, effective and efficient interventions to individuals with pain conditions, while meeting best practice standards, using a multidisciplinary and consumer-focused approach.
Treatment Intervention Goals:
- to improve the individuals' functional performance and quality of life
- to modify the perception of, and the response to, pain
- to enhance self-management and reduce reliance on the health care system
- to promote appropriate use of medication and reduce substance dependency
The pain assessment helps to increase the understanding of significant psychological factors in a patient's pain pattern. Assessment can also exclude or confirm significant pre-existing personality traits of persons experiencing chronic pain.
Pain management interventions include an assessment of the psychosocial characteristics of the pain, cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation training, and stress management. This is done in conjunction with the medical and pharmacological treatment regime.
Chronic pain rehabilitation is defined as the treatment of patients with painful conditions, with a focus on restoring the patient to his or her highest attainable physical, cognitive and emotional functioning, maximizing self-management skills, promoting independence from health care, and reducing subjective pain intensity. Stress can contribute to or exacerbate pain; relaxation techniques can alleviate pain by easing stress.
Chronic pain rehabilitation is not a curative model. It is a restorative model, with emphasis on improving the patient’s overall level of function and independence, not just a reduction in subjective pain intensity. By definition, it is typically more labor intensive for the therapist and the patient, with active behavioral and cognitive therapies emphasized.
Persistent pain often results in negative thinking patterns such as: jumping to conclusions, over generalization, catastrophizing, selective attention and making negative predictions. Treatment goals are designed to assist patients to understand how their thoughts and behaviors can affect the pain experience, to help patients develop effective coping skills and to apply and maintain their learned pain management coping skills.
Common cognitive-behavioral treatments:
- Relaxation skills training
- Problem-solving and coping skills
- Promotion of self-management of persistent pain
- Guided imagery
- Deep breathing exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Goal setting and self-pacing strategies
- Habit reversal
- Maintenance and relapse prevention
Pain is not an isolated sensation in a patient’s body, but rather it can affect the whole existence of a person. Therefore, it is necessary to treat not just the pain, but the whole patient with chronic pain to lead to a fulfilling, enjoyable lifestyle.