Chronic pain and emotional processing

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  History of chronic pain
  Cognitive behavioural model of pain
  Emotional processing and chronic pain

Lara Tosunlar, Psychology Research Assistant, Dorset HealthCare NHS Trust
Dr Selwyn Richards, Consultant Rheumatologist, Poole Hospital NHS Trust

Chronic pain is a condition characterized by a heightened response to painful stimuli (Yezierski, Radson & Vanderah, 2004).  It is the second most frequent reason why individuals consult doctors and is a major health, not to mention economical, problem in western industrialised countries. For example, in America pain disorders are estimated to cost over $100 billion annually (Gallagher, 1997; Aronoff & DuPuy, 1997) and approximately 8% of the population in Germany are thought to suffer with chronic and severely debilitating pain (Zimmermann, 2004).  Chronic low back pain has been found to be a particularly major cause of medical expenses, absenteeism and disablement (van Tulder, Koes & Bombardier, 2002). Chronic pain is considered to be the second most common cause for taking time off work and in 1999 alone; 206 million working days were lost (Tinker, 2003).  Though pain is universally experienced, research and clinical efforts to investigate and manage pain have been hindered by its subjective nature.  This private, multidimensional nature of pain is recognized in the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) definition of pain. Chen (2001) notes that the official IASP definition identifies three elements:

1. Pain is associated with injury and “threat” of injury

2. It is an “unpleasant” and “emotional” experience

3. It is “subjective”

Current thinking is that pain is intrinsic to life and its origins lie with the birth of mankind.  Relationships between pain and disease, emotion and pain, suffering and pain, the physical body and pain, and even the influence of the soul in pain, have been researched, studied, disputed and discussed many a times in medical, religious and general literature.  This journey continues to this day…

Research from the British School of Osteopathy