Recently, during discussions with surgeons in Guernsey, I was advised that there is a problem with chronic pain. From my understanding, there is a chronic pain group facilitated by the local health services, yet there is a waiting list. This is not wholly surprising! There are broad estimates of chronic pain, with it being estimated that between 6% and 60% of the population suffer with chronic pain. That is an absurdly broad statistic! However, it is estimated that back pain alone swallows up 20% of the UK's total health expenditure, with people in the UK having an estimated +4 billion chronic pain days per year.
Chronic pain is a problem for both the individual, and society as a whole. The individual suffered a reduced quality of life due to the debilitating nature of chronic pain, whereas the economy suffers from the huge economic burden related to the health costs, loss of productivity, sick days etc. Pain impacts on employment, ability to partake in activities of daily living, relationships, and more. Due to the stress of pain there are also increased risks of other ails, such as cardiovascular disease.
How can Psychology help pain?
Health Psychologists base many of their interventions on the biopsychosocial model, whereby health and wellbeing are made up of three components: biological factors; psychological factors; and, social factors. A dominant theory of pain encapsulates this, whereby there are various types of pain. Some are sharp and warn the individual about actual tissue damage that is occurring now. This is useful as it allows immediate preventative action to be taken. The body's pain receptors are a complicated system. Simple interventions, such as rubbing your skin after hitting your arm against something, can immediately ease pain. This is actually sending conflicting signals to the nervous system, overriding the pain experience.
Theory suggests a gating system, similar to gates on the canal system. Gates can open and close, allowing the body to regulate the pain experience. This sometimes becomes dysfunctional and therefore pain can be exacerbated. Through the use of interventions, developed in conjunction with a qualified health professional, the pain experience can be improved. No health professional will promise to make your pain go away fully, however the aims of pain management are to increase your quality of life and reduce the impact of pain on your life.
Dr. Tim Mahy uses various strategies to help individuals with chronic pain, and is a member of the International Association for the Study of Pain, therefore is kept uptodate with the most effective treatment modalities. If you have tried numerous medications, physiotherapy, acupuncture etc then it may be worth considering a psychological approach.
The brain is a very powerful tool when it comes to pain. A BBC documentary shows how through the use of hypnosis the brain can block out the negative aspects of pain, resulting in tooth extraction without anesthesia.
If you are interested, the youtube video can be found below.
Dr. Tim Mahy has trained in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy and it's application in pain management, and can incorporate hypnotherapy into psychological interventions.
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Dr. Tim Mahy, BSc (Hons), MSc, DPsych, MBPsS, Cert.Hyp
Health Psychologist (HCPC and Guernsey Registered)
I'm a doctor of psychology, born in Guernsey, educated at a tertiary level in Bristol, Bath, and London. Having worked and trained with some of the leading Health Psychologists in the UK, and having a passion about how Health Psychology can truly benefit many people, I now want to spread the word, as well as offer consultations to people wanting to make changes in their lives.