What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is pain that continues for a long time, and may be caused by things like headaches, cancer, fibromyalgia, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), arthritis, after-effects of an accident, etc.

In contrast, acute pain can be sharp and caused by things like burns, cuts, broken bones, labour and childbirth.

It’s important to understand the difference between acute and chronic pain because during acute pain, doctors usually instruct patients to avoid movements or things that make the pain worse (e.g., you would not walk using a broken foot). Chronic pain on the other hand, usually tends to improve with movement. For example, pain from arthritis can lessen with some types of movement. Please consult your physician to see what kind of pain you have, and what types of movement should be done or avoided.

How do I know if I need therapy for Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain can be difficult both physically and emotionally. Not being able to do the things you want or need to do can be frustrating, depressing, or anxiety-provoking. Are you…

  • Worried that loved ones are sick of taking care of you, or that you are burdening them?
  • Feeling sad, down, or frustrated that you can’t do the things you want or need to do?
  • Feel like your sense of self and identity has been impacted (e.g., “if I can’t play sports anymore, who am I”?)
  • Do you worry about getting hurt again, or avoid doing things because you are worried about making the pain worse?
  • Has pain impacted your ability to focus and achieve things at work or school?
  • Do you lose your temper with loved ones more easily since coping with pain is taxing?
  • Are you socially isolating because you are scared to need to cancel on friends, or feel worried that you won’t be able to keep up with them?
  • Are you embarrassed about how you look, feel, or move?

How can therapy help me manage Chronic Pain?

Therapy can help you to set realistic expectations for yourself in terms of getting out of your comfort zone, but staying within your self-care zone. Therapy can help you to cope with the grief that comes from pain and/or loss of functioning, and to develop strategies to maximize your life satisfaction. Being able to set boundaries or communicate needs with loved ones may also be a part of your treatment plan, so that you can enhance relationships instead of avoiding or straining them.

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