Relieving Pain’s Impact on Mental Well-Being

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Pain is something we all experience throughout our lives. But for some of us, physical pain is acute and ongoing. When it lingers, this chronic pain can impact our daily lives and our emotional well-being and can lead to a lower quality of life. Many folks with chronic pain report experiencing anxiety and depression.

If living with daily pain is both physically and mentally taxing, how can we work toward loosening its grip on us? And if therapies are suggested, how do we know what will work best for the pain we’re coping with?

Audience Questions

Laura Payne, PhD, explains the protective purposes of pain, breaks down chronic discomfort’s relationship to our mental health, and answers audience questions about the intersection of pain and emotional management.

  • Can you clarify what chronic pain is?
  • What does chronic physical pain do to you mentally?
  • Are there some chronic pain conditions that are more mentally impactful than others?
  • Is it possible for chronic physical pain to cause mental illness and vice versa?
  • What do we do if we are in chronic pain and are told that “it’s all in our heads”? How can we be health advocates for ourselves without getting increasingly more upset and defensive?
  • How do we find pain specialists? What questions should we be asking of these providers?
  • Is there any implication that we’re more mentally healthy if we have a higher pain threshold?
  • In terms of pain, how can we tell what is “good” versus what may be damaging to our bodies and our minds?
  • Is there any evidence that mediation or mindfulness exercises help with chronic pain?
  • Are you able to speak to the impact of diet as it relates to physical pain?
  • How should we approach patients who are facing mental health challenges due to physical pain?
  • How can we tell if someone who is in chronic pain is developing depression or anxiety?
  • What kinds of treatments are out there for folks who are experiencing both mental health conditions and physical pain?
  • It seems that some who live with chronic pain have not been able to “accept” their pain and struggle to have a positive outlook. What type of treatment may be most helpful in helping people change their mindset?
  • What other coping skills do you generally recommend aside from mindfulness?
  • How common is the use of hypnosis in the treatment of chronic pain? Is there any evidence that it is helpful?
  • Is there any evidence that CBD or marijuana products help with pain management?
  • Sometimes folks with chronic pain are offended by the idea that their chronic pain plays a big role in their mental health. They don’t want to hear that their anger or depressive symptoms have anything to do with their pain yet there is very clearly a link. Any suggestions for tying together the connection for people who are resistant to this connection?
  • What kind of support is available for adults, particularly older adults, who struggle with chronic pain?
  • For someone who is struggling, how can we help be supportive and encourage small steps forward while also not pushing them to do too much?
  • Aside from CBT and relaxation techniques, is there recent research or additional suggestions for folks struggling specifically with fibromyalgia?
  • How can women-specific chronic pain conditions evolve over a lifetime? How can we be aware of what may be a chronic pain symptom in our reproductive health as we age?
  • Most clients just want to take a pill and have their pain go away. Do you have recommendations for how to help clients be open to trying strategies you’ve discussed?
  • My pain is most pronounced at night, which leads to having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. To date, my specialists haven’t been very helpful. Do you have any suggestions or resources for someone like me?
  • Do you have any suggestions around discussing chronic pain in the workplace?
  • Are there any books about chronic pain that you often recommend?
  • How do we cope with feeling vulnerable from our pain? For example, feeling weaker than others or coping with feelings of low self-worth.
  • How can we learn more about gender-specific conditions where chronic pain is a symptom?
  • Do you have advice for folks who may have difficulty accessing some of the types of care you’ve mentioned?
  • What are the best ways to support those we love who are in chronic pain?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. Payne

Laura Payne, PhD, is the director of the Clinical and Translational Pain Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital. Her research focuses on identifying neurobiological, behavioral, and psychological biomarkers related to pain.

Dr. Payne is actively involved in professional organizations and serves on several editorial boards, including Pain Medicine’s editorial board.

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Originally aired on May 5, 2021