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What are the symptoms of chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as pain that does not go away as expected after an illness or injury. Whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is different and may persist for months or longer. Individuals with chronic pain may report feeling discomfort, soreness, tightness, or stiffness, and experience pain as shooting, burning, or aching. Chronic pain can lead to other problems, such as fatigue, which can cause a loss of motivation. Sleeping problems are commonplace followed by withdrawal from activities due to an increased need to rest. Irritability, depression, and anxiety are also typical symptoms of chronic pain.

How common is chronic pain?1

Chronic pain is a considerable problem in the United States as it experienced by approximately one third of the adult population. Prevalence is considered higher for females than for males.

What is CBT for chronic pain like?

For all disorders, the CBT therapist starts by educating clients about their diagnosis and about CBT, helps clients set goals, and teaches clients essential thinking and behavioral skills. When working with clients with chronic pain, the CBT therapist not only puts special emphasis on identifying and modifying maladaptive behaviors that have a role in maintaining pain, but they also work on identifying and increasing adaptive behaviors. Individuals are also helped to identify and correct maladaptive thoughts and beliefs, and increase self-efficacy for managing pain. Additionally, many individuals with chronic pain have depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders, and CBT is also used to treat these conditions.

1Johannes, C. B., Le, T. K., Zhou, X., Johnston, J. A., & Dworkin, R. H. (2010). The prevalence of chronic pain in United States adults: results of an Internet-based survey. The Journal of Pain11(11), 1230-1239.doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.07.002