We can be our own worst critics. It's important to remember there's still a core you despite the pain and to be kind to yourself..
What you can do
If biomedical treatments like medicines, rest, supplements, ice, heat, injections, and physical therapy didn’t resolve pain when it was acute, is it reasonable to expect using only the same treatments to change our symptoms when the pain becomes chronic?
We must change the paradigm. Pain is more than a biomedical condition. We need to treat both mind and body. As Dr. Rachel Zoffness reminds us, " Because pain is biopsychosocial, treatment must be, too."
Comprehensive pain treatment that addresses the biopsychosocial aspects of a person's pain experience is not only more clinically effective than conventional medical treatment by itself, it’s also more cost-efficient.
Acute pain vs. chronic pain
There are two types of pain: acute and chronic.
Acute pain is the body’s normal response to tissue damage or injury. The pain matches the damage and treatment works - lasting less than three months.
Chronic pain is an abnormal response, becomes its own disease/condition, and doesn’t improve over time. It can happen long after an injury or illness heals. Treatments don’t always work or stop working and symptoms can change and grow over time.
The longer we have pain, the less likely it is related to tissue damage or injury and the better our bodies can become at creating it and turning up the pain volume. It’s a process known as central sensitization.
Sensitization can happen in all chronic pain conditions, no matter the underlying cause, including fibromyalgia, whiplash, shoulder pain, neuropathic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, non-cardiac chest pain, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular disorders, post-surgical pain, complex regional pain syndrome, low back pain, osteoarthritis, pelvic pain, and headache.
This 22-minute video from Dr. Sletten with the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center (PRC) does an awesome job explaining pain and sensitization, why traditional medical treatments don’t always work for chronic pain, and their approach at the PRC. I encourage you to watch it.
Pain rehabilitation goes beyond medicine and medical interventions – and crosses different disciplines. It doesn’t just focus on removing the pain. It focuses on the patient and how they can play a role in their own pain management.
It’s a proven approach based on the biopsychosocial model of medicine – benefiting patients while reducing costs and reliance on the medical system.
In addition to their general efficacy, these types of programs using interdisciplinary chronic pain rehabilitation can be effective at weaning patients off opioid therapy with long-term improvements in pain, mood, and function.
I was fortunate to be able to attend the 3-week interdisciplinary Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center – not just once, but twice. It was both a game-changer and lifesaver for me. I highly recommend the program to anyone interested in taking an active role in managing their own care. Read about my Mayo experience in this article.
More programs like this are needed to shift the current reliance on biomedical therapy towards a greater reliance on provider-supported patient self-management and true biopsychosocial treatment.
Availability is important but so is accessibility. These programs aren't cheap, and insurance can be hesitant the pay the price tag. What payors need to remember is that these programs are cost-effective with a 68% reduction in medical cost spending.
Find links to programs in the U.S. and around the globe.
What to look for in a program
A pain rehabilitation program should focus on you as a person, not just your pain.
Interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation programs that take place in the same facility with health care providers working together with open communication and shared objectives are the gold standard of comprehensive care outperforming medical pain services and less coordinated multidisciplinary programs.
A comprehensive pain rehabilitation program typically includes:
Learn more about pain rehabilitation
Learn more about the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center (PRC)