Most people experience physical pain at some point in their life. But persistent pain that may continue for months or even years can be debilitating leading to other problems such as insomnia, depression and anxiety. The causes are various; injuries and disease being common, also general "wear and tear", but sometimes there is no medical explanation for what is occurring. Usually pain can be explained by either musculoskeletal problems (known as nociceptive pain) or, alternatively, what is known as neuropathic pain, which originates from damage to the central or peripheral nervous
What most people aren't aware of is that pain can often have a psychological component that can make the whole physical experience more difficult than it needs to be. For example, the first reaction of many people to pain is to become inactive. This only serves to increase the amount of time people spend focusing on their difficulties, reduces the opportunities for pleasurable experiences and is usually counterproductive. In the longer term some people may develop a set of automatic thoughts and wider beliefs about their condition that can have a negative impact on their physical and
psychosocial functioning. In a few cases, often those where there is no apparent physical cause for what people are feeling and experiencing, a person may have an overly developed sensitivity to the pain warning signals that are sent to the brain. This results in regular false alarms, rather like the smoke alarm that goes off every time someone turns on the toaster.
In such instances, psychological pain management techniques based on cognitive behavioural therapy, often used in conjunction with medication, osteopathy and other relevant interventions, may assist people to manage their condition more effectively and improve their day to day functioning and quality of life. Treatment commonly consists of assessment and monitoring of the condition, improving activity levels within the person's
capabilities and focusing on the thoughts, feelings and behaviours than can change a person's view of their problems from being completely overwhelming to more easily manageable. Improvements may also be gained where someone develops a greater sense of motivation and mastery of their situation. Of course, as with most treatments, results vary between individuals but good psychological therapy always tailors to the
needs of the person and most experience at least some benefit.