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Chronic pain sufferers don't just deal with physical pain, they deal with the mental and emotional pain that comes with it. 77% of people report feeling depressed due to their chronic pain. Studies also show that depression and chronic pain co-occur 40%-50% of the time. Many researchers have tried to discover the cause and effect relationship—does depression lead to chronic pain or does chronic pain lead to depression?

Regardless of the answer to this question, people are struggling with both. Not everyone understands the toll pain and depression can take on someone's quality of life. Dr. Ho has treated thousands of patients in his clinic and recognizes that finding relief is possible in numerous areas of life.

1. Challenge Pain-Related Beliefs.

Studies show that patients with chronic pain who hold one or more of the following pain-related beliefs to be true suffer higher levels of depression and respond poorly to treatment:

  • Pain is a signal of damage
  • Activity should be avoided when one has pain
  • Pain leads to disability
  • Pain is uncontrollable
  • Pain is a permanent condition

2. Reinforce Positive Pain-Related Beliefs.

Of course, pain is uncomfortable! It may seem difficult to challenge or drop these beliefs but the truth is, they're making your pain more unbearable. A good place to start is by reinforcing positive thoughts instead of replaying defeatist thoughts like the ones listed above. Try repeating the following:

  • Pain is normal and okay to experience
  • Activity helps me feel more energized
  • I can continue doing the things I love
  • I can manage the pain
  • Pain is not a permanent condition

These words may be difficult to repeat at first, and you may not believe them. However, over time reinforcing positive thoughts will help you overcome depressive thought patterns and physical pain.

3. Accept the Presence of Pain and Release Control.

Patients who accept their chronic pain, rather than avoiding or dismissing it show a better response to treatment and better adjustment overall.

Patients who try to control their pain and its duration, frequency, or intensity begin "catastrophizing". Catastrophizing involves the creation of an irrational thought, which believes that something is far worse than it actually is

Catastrophizing creates fear and avoidance which causes pain sufferers to become reclusive, withdraw from their day-to-day life, and refrain from being active.

The solution to this depressive thought pattern is by accepting that the pain exists and making an effort to confront the pain head on and focus on recovery.

4. Maintain a Positive Attitude.

Studies have shown that patients who believe their pain is going to get worse rather than better, are more resistant to treatment. Maintaining an optimistic attitude and believing "my pain will get better", can improve the chances of recovery from pain.

5. Create a Support System.

Researchers conducted a study to test if the presence of a supportive family could influence a chronic pain sufferer's pain or depression. On the follow-up, patients who described their families as being supportive reported significantly less pain intensity, less reliance on medication and greater activity levels.

The results of this study demonstrate that perceived support is an important factor in the rehabilitation of chronic pain patients. You can't control your family and ensure they are supportive. That's why it's important to build an additional support system and surround yourself with friends and people who will be there to help you during hard times.

You Are Not Alone, Seek Help for Chronic Pain

25%-50% of people who report chronic pain to their doctor are depressed. You are not alone! According to the American Pain Foundation, about 32 million people in the U.S. report to have had pain lasting longer than a year. Millions of people share your pain and millions of others have overcome pain through effective relief and management. If you feel alone in your journey to pain-relief, use the following resources to seek out support:

  1. General online support group for chronic pain
  2. Chronic Pain Association of Canada Support Groups
  3. Self-Help Centres Across Canada
  4. Daily Strength Fibromyalgia Support Group
  5. Arthritis Find Courses & Workshops- Canada
  6. Osteoporosis Support Groups- Canada
  7. Canadian Cancer Society Support Groups
  8. Crohn's and Colitis Support Groups
  9. Diabetes Support Groups
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