Dr. Anna Charbonneau

Therapy for people living with stress, depression, and medical conditions

Wondering how therapy can help with chronic pain?

by Dr. Anna Charbonneau | Tags: therapy, pain

Therapy is about your mind and emotions, right? So how can therapy help with physical problems? This questions comes up so often, so today I wanted to take a look at how therapy can help with physical problems like chronic pain.

But you look great! You don't look sick.

This can be so maddening for people in chronic pain, whose problems are invisible from the outside. Problems like chronic pain and chronic fatigue can be really difficult to understand for anyone who has never experienced them.

People in chronic pain can end up feeling like they're in a position of having to prove their pain is real. You don't have any outward signs (like needing a cane, a cast, or a wheelchair) to function as a signal to people that you aren't feeling well. You can look pretty good, actually, which tends to be even more confusing for the people around you.

Is Pain "All In Your Head"? No!

Sometimes a referral to therapy can feel like a medical doctor is doubting you, or telling you it's all in your head. "It's all in your head" is one of the worst, most damaging messages a person with pain can hear. Because what does it imply? It implies that your pain isn't real. Just because it's impossible to see from the outside and there is no test to "show" you're in pain, your pain is still real. This is your real experience. A good therapist gets that, but many people who have no experience with chronic pain will have a lot of trouble understanding this.

In fact, all of these experiences of people dismissing real problems and real pain is one of the very reasons therapy can help. Being in pain can be isolating, frustrating, and downright maddening. Your body isn't working like you'd hoped it would, the treatments the doctors prescribe aren't working like they should–in fact, nothing about living with chronic pain is normal or expected.

How Therapy Can Help With Chronic Pain

The more frustrated you get, the worse your body functions. And the worse your body functions, the worse pain tends to get. Therapy is a way to stop this cycle, regroup, and starting figuring out how to adjust and cope with the challenges of living with pain or other medical conditions.

Curious to learn more? You can read my article on GoodTherapy.Org about Three Ways Therapy Can Help with Chronic Pain.

Other Resources for Coping with Chronic Pain

You can read more stories from people in pain here.

And this article, from Jodi Ettenberg, a lawyer and longtime travel who lives with chronic pain, includes solid list of 10 things besides therapy that can help people living with chronic pain live better.

You can read more of my articles on coping with emotions and medical conditions here.