VCPS BLOG - Chronic pain: A mental or physical condition?

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Couch

Chronic pain refers to ongoing pain that does not resolve from medical treatment and continues after an injury has healed. These recurrent ‘physical’ conditions are often expected to have healed, but continue to cause pain without a physical explanation. This can be extremely frustrating, particularly when a GP can offer no further solutions. However, there is a potential for meaning behind chronic pain, and this may need to be acknowledged or actioned in order to reduce the pain or to eradicate it completely.

This meaning or explanation behind the chronic pain is aligned with the idea that sometimes the body ‘knows’ things that our cognitive reasoning does not ‘know’ – and perhaps it may even be trying to tell us something.

Such an idea is not new. Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French polymath wrote: "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of... We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart."

Chronic pain can therefore be attributed just as much to the mind as it is to the body, and it is important to acknowledge, understand and actively work on any mental aspects to the chronic pain which are causing it to continue despite any physical cause.

So, you have done all of the tests, tried all of the medications and taken all of the advice of your GP – but nothing seems to help. What can you do next?

There are a number of non-pharmaceutical remedies for chronic pain. These include:

  1. Exercise
  2. Acupuncture or massage
  3. Mindfulness meditation
  4. Biofeedback
  5. Physical/occupational therapy
  6. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  7. Sensory Medical Psychotherapy

Dr Siobhan Reddel is a Sensory Medical Psychotherapist at VCPS that specialises in working with chronic pain that continues despite medical intervention. She addresses trauma stored deep in the mind and body's implicit (procedural and emotional) memory, using a somatic psychotherapeutic approach that works directly with feedback from the client's sensations.

At VCPS, we have a dedicated intake team to answer any questions you have about therapy. You can chat with our team in real-time online or give them a call on (03) 9419 7172. We would love to help you with your journey into therapy.

Articles recommended by Dr Siobhan Reddel:

  • Less Talk, More Therapy by Jessica Wolf
  • The drugs don’t work: Living with back pain by Brooke Shields

Practitioners we recommend:

View the related Inside VCPS podcast here:

Episode 8 - Chronic Pain

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