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If you live with pain for a long time, it can become chronic. Here we look at chronic pain and the treatment available.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for at least three to six months. It is a common condition but treatment needs to be tailored to the person affected. Acute pain is a signal that is clearly linked to a cause. With chronic pain, the condition may be associated with a disease, but can also be a condition in its own right. Tinnitus is an example of chronic pain.

Pain is a condition that can be difficult to predict. Sometimes you may feel no pain while having a severe disease, but be in great pain if you break a leg. With chronic pain, you may have pain signals that react to things that were not previously painful. Long-term pain is rarely dangerous, but it can be very frustrating.

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What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?

With acute pain, you get signals that something is not right in your body. The pain comes on suddenly and can last for a while but then passes. Long-term pain is a separate diagnosis with a different cause and treatment plan.

Chronic pain in different conditions

Chronic pain can develop as a consequence of various other somatic and psychological conditions. The pain may come and go, but often people have difficulty managing their mood and develop conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Diseases and conditions associated with chronic pain include spinal problems, joint problems, neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, migraine, fibromyalgia and inflammatory diseases. Psychological factors can also have an impact, such as depression and anxiety, which can make pain more severe.


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Treatment for people living with pain

Being in pain can be very difficult and frustrating. If it affects your daily life, it is important to get help and support.

Chronic pain – symptoms

The symptoms of chronic pain need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis as they can be very different between individuals. Pain signals are received in the brain, and can be linked to our nervous system, but can also to a cognitive or emotional experience.

If you have had pain for a long time, you may become very aware of all the signals that remind you of the pain, which can make it difficult to recover. This can lead to symptoms that may not be related to the initial pain such as numbness, warmth and other symptoms. Symptoms common in chronic pain are:

  1. Constant pain: Pain lasts longer than expected, for months or years. The pain may be constant or intermittent.
  2. Disability: It can affect the ability to perform daily activities and function normally.
  3. Psychological symptoms: People with chronic pain may experience psychological and emotional symptoms, including depression, anxiety, irritability and sleep problems.
  4. Changes in appetite and weight: Chronic pain can affect appetite and lead to weight gain or loss.
  5. Impaired concentration and memory: Chronic pain can affect cognitive functions and lead to difficulty concentrating and memory problems.
  6. Changes in mood: Pain can affect mood, ranging from frustration and anger to boredom and hopelessness.
  7. Social isolation: Due to the pain, people may withdraw from social activities.
  8. Increased sensitivity: Some people with chronic pain may experience increased sensitivity to stimuli such as light, sound or touch, known as allodynia or hyperalgesia.

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What happens psychologically?

The root cause of the pain is often not psychological but it can be influenced by psychological factors. It is possible to work with this in treatment to positively influence your health. If you have chronic pain, you might also develop psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Help is available for this.

What can you do about chronic pain?

If you have chronic pain, you can get treatment and make lifestyle changes. Here look at how it is possible to feel better.

Chronic pain treatment

The treatment of chronic pain is usually multimodal and based on a biopsychosocial model, which means that biological, psychological and social factors are taken into account in the treatment. This may involve treatment with medication, physiotherapy, psychological treatment and lifestyle changes. If necessary, surgery may also be required. The team works together to provide a holistic approach to the patient. Treatment is tailored to the individual’s needs and is often provided in clinics specialising in pain management. To receive treatment, you can get a referral from your GP.


12 common questions about chronic pain

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for at least three to six months.

Is it a diagnosis?

Long-term pain is now a single diagnosis, it does not have to be linked to a specific event.

What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?

With acute pain, you get signals that something is not right in your body. The pain comes on suddenly and can last for a while but then passes, unlike chronic pain.

What diseases and conditions can cause pain?

Pain can develop from spinal problems, joint problems, neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, migraine, fibromyalgia and inflammatory diseases, among others. Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, can have an impact and cause pain to continue.

What are the symptoms of chronic pain?

Chronic pain affects things such as work and relationships, cognition, and emotion. It can cause isolation, loss of appetite, and sleep problems. It is important to get help if you experience these.

What treatments are available for chronic pain?

The treatment of chronic pain is usually multimoda and based on a biopsychosocial model, which means that biological, psychological, and social factors are taken into account in the treatment. It is possible to get a referral from your GP. For milder pain, Lavendla’s team of psychologists and therapists are available to help you.

Can you live with chronic pain?

Many people with long-term pain feel that it takes over their everyday life, so it is important to seek treatment and rehabilitation. It is possible to feel better.

What should I consider if I have chronic pain?

Untreated anxiety can lead to depression and other mental health problems.

Can you have other problems while suffering from chronic pain?

It is important to be physically active and do things that you enjoy. Working on self-acceptance and self-compassion are also important components.

How can I support someone close to me who is suffering from chronic pain?

Listen, try to be patient and encourage them to seek professional help.

How much does therapy at Lavendla cost?

The cost of therapy varies depending on the therapist and the length of the sessions. Sessions generally cost between €30 – €100. Find out about our therapists’ prices on their profile pages.

Where can I go if I need help?

Lavendla has a team of experienced psychologists and therapists who work with CBT and can help you feel better if you have mild symptoms. If you have more severe symptoms, contact your GP for a referral to a specialist psychiatrist. In an acute mental health crisis, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

Living with chronic pain

Many people with long-term pain feel that it takes over their everyday life, so it is important to seek treatment and rehabilitation. Being physically active and doing things you enjoy is also vital, while working on acceptance and self-compassion.

How therapy can help with chronic pain

Talking to a licensed psychologist can give you tools to understand and manage your symptoms. It can also significantly increase your quality of life and make it easier to manage emotions. Lavendla’s team of psychologists and therapists can help you with mild symptoms, but for more severe pain it is better to contact your GP.

The benefits of seeking help

Treatment take you through a series of steps to improve your situation. Sessions with Lavendla’s team are always strictly confidential and our therapists are trained to deal with your problem in a professional manner.

Your next step

By seeking help, you are not showing signs of weakness, but of strength. Just taking action to get the support you need can begin to improve your life. Professional help is available, so consider taking that first step and booking an introductory online session with one of our therapists or psychologists. An initial 20-minute conversation can give you a feel for what it’s like to speak with a licensed psychologist. We are here, ready to make the difficult easier.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.