Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain & Behavioral Medicine

Dr. Richard A. Wyckoff & Associates

What is Chronic Pain?

There are two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain makes you take notice and avoid things that can hurt you. It doesn’t last long and goes away as you heal.

Chronic pain, however, persists long after the original damage was done. It can last for months or years. It has no value whatsoever, and sometimes we don’t know what is causing it. Chronic pain is more than discomfort. It can lead to depression and anger, damage your self esteem, and interfere with your daily life.

Many conditions can cause chronic pain. And pain can be real, even when nothing seems to be causing it. Pain can also become a learned response to stimulation that normally wouldn’t cause pain at all. In fact, our brain can perceive pain in a body part that doesn’t even exist, such as phantom limb pain.

What treatments are available?

There are a number of medications that can reduce chronic pain. Analgesics, anti-inflammatories, anti- depressants and anti-convulsants are commonly prescribed for chronic pain. They work in different ways, and each has benefits as well as potential side effects to consider.

There are also non-pharmacological treatments for pain, such as exercise, nutrition and, most important, behavioral medicine.

What is Behavioral Medicine?

Sometimes called medical psychology or health psychology, behavioral medicine is the science that looks at how thoughts, emotions, and actions affect health and well being. Most practitioners are pychologists with training in medicine or physicians with training in psychology. Behavioral medicine therapy includes pain management, biofeedback neurofeedback, stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis. You will work with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you and your circumstances.

Pain Management

Persistent pain can start to take over your life. With pain management, you will take control of your life again and reduce the influence it has on your work, family and social activity. You will learn pain management through counseling, and you can participate individually or with your family or in groups with other pain management patients. Pain management is often used in conjunction with one of the other behavioral medicine therapies.

Biofeedback & Neurofeedback

Many chronic pain problems have biological causes that can be eliminated or reduced by new techniques of applied psycho physiology. Muscle related pains can be reduced by learning to relax specific muscles deeply enough to allow healing and recovery to take place. Neurologic pains can be reduced by learning to relax the sympathetic nervous system. Some neuropathic pain can be helped by learning to increase blood flow to particular parts of the body. Many pain complaints are also helped by learning to modify certain brainwave patterns using EEG or neurofeedback. You may be surprised to discover how easy it is to learn these self regulation strategies with modern computer assisted biofeedback strategies.

Pain & Your Emotions

Obviously, chronic pain can cause us to become depressed and irritable. Over time it can make us feel helpless and hopeless and give up trying to enjoy our lives. Life becomes something to endure rather than something to enjoy. When this happens, cognitive behavioral therapy can help us recapture our lives by examining the thoughts, attitudes, values and behaviors that could lead to a better life. Surprizingly, this can also reduce suffering and improve pain tolerance.

Some Examples

Remember that in many conditions (arthritis, for example) we are treating the pain, not the underlying disease. With some conditions, such as migraine headache or Raynaud’s disease, the underlying condition itself can be successfully treated. The following is a partial list of conditions that are appropriate for behavioral medicine. Call us to ask about your concerns.

◊ Arthritis Pain

◊ Cancer Pain

◊ Chronic Back Pain

◊ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

◊ Diabetic Neuropathy

◊ Fybromyalgia

◊ Migraine Headache

◊ Mold Encephalopathy

◊ Persistent Daily Headache

◊ Raynaud’s Disease

◊ Trigeminal Neuralgia

◊ Pain of Unknown Origin

What about cost?

Most insurance will reimburse all or part of the cost of treatment for chronic pain. Outpatient treatment is significantly less expensive than a residential or hospital based pain management program. Each insurance plan is different, so the best way to determine what this treatment might cost for you is to call and tell us what insurance you have. We will call your insurer and review the coverage with you.

How can I learn more?

We are always happy to answer your questions during a FREE initial telephone inquiry. Call our office today to schedule a phone call with Dr. Wyckoff.