Whenever I prescribe my chronic pain patients a referral to see a Pain Psychologist, I sometimes get the response, “But Doc, My pain is REAL! I’m not crazy!” I reassure my patients that the Pain Psychologist will not try to determine whether or not the pain is real or imaginary, but will serve an important role in treating an aspect of their chronic pain.
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience, associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” This definition not only acknowledges that pain involves thoughts and feelings, but that the pain is real, even in cases where the cause is not clearly known. It is known that the spinothalamic tract (a pain pathway in our bodies) travels to the amygdala in our brain involved in “emotional memories” such as a your first kiss or bereavement over a loss of a loved one. Hence, there is a strong emotional component of pain, as it can make you feel tired, unable to concentrate, can affect your mood. Chronic pain sometimes leads to a loss of a job, finances, and/or self-esteem, all which may lead to feelings of frustration and negative thoughts, affecting your life and your loved ones.
Pain psychologists can help decrease your pain by using treatments that can reduce activity in your nervous system that negatively responds to stress. Patients can feel more sense of control, have reduced depression and anxiety, and improved concentration and self-esteem. Their aim is to help people work out ways to live as normal a life as possible despite their pain.
In conjunction with a Pain Psychologist, my patients may benefit from other treatments for their pain, such as interventional treatments (i.e. spine, joint, or muscle injections or neuromodulation), medications, physiotherapy, and acupuncture, as all are part of the Pain Management Program.
Dr. John Villanueva is part of an elite group of physicians serving the greater Los Angeles area who are Double Boarded and Certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in both his primary specialty and the subspecialty of Pain Medicine. His state of the art premier medical facility—John Villanueva, M.D. Inc. Pain & Spine—is conveniently located at 2121 W. Magnolia Blvd. Suite B, Burbank CA. For an appointment or more information please call us 818-669-8895 and we will be happy to assist you.