Welcome to Dr. Bricken's Medical Psychology Clinic. Your physician has referred you for psychological treatment to help you reduce your pain or to manage a debilitating medical condition. Your physician and I would like to reassure you that we believe you have a genuine medical condition and "real pain". You have been referred for psychological treatment to assist you in managing that pain. Anyone who suffers from chronic pain will experience a certain amount of psychological trauma and emotional distress which then worsens the existing physical condition. Some of the ways in which medical psychology may help you are listed below:
An estimated 76.2 million Americans suffer from persistent pain each year, according to the American Pain Foundation. Add two loved ones for every patient and the total number of people affected is at least 152 million Americans--50% of the population. Pain costs an estimated $100 billion each year. Every day, 60% of men and women experience some pain (AACPI). Chronic pain not only causes physical discomfort, but also interferes with social relationships, family life and self-esteem. There is a high correlation between chronic pain and depression. 1 in 3 Americans lose more than 20 hours of sleep each month due to pain, according to the American Alliance of Cancer Pain Initiatives (AACPI). Pain is the second leading cause of medically related work absenteeism, resulting in more than 50 million lost workdays each year, according to the American Pain Society. Despite our medical knowledge and technology, it remains unclear as to why individuals with the same medical diagnoses respond differently to identical treatment. Pain is a complex phenomenon which is a combination of physical, psychological and socio-environmental factors. Therefore, the successful treatment of chronic pain includes attention to each of these areas.
Pain is a warning signal that something is wrong with our bodies. In this regard, pain is valuable because it prevents further injury. However, long term chronic pain no longer serves this useful purpose. When in danger or facing injury, the body naturally protects itself by tightening up and bracing against some type of assault. Sometimes, the muscles remain tight and naturally braced as if the brain forgot to "let go". There are many sources of chronic long term pain including this type of continuous muscle tension, scar tissue, disturbances in the mechanical alignment of the back, deconditioning, muscle spasms, etc. Surgical procedures and medication are not helpful with many of these chronic pain disorders. Surgery may not be recommended by your physician due to the potential risks involved including the possibility of an increase in scar tissue which may cause additional pain. The most effective pain medications also cause medical complications and side effects. Long term use of pain medications produces dependency, tolerance and addiction. Additional side effects of these medications include stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal difficulties, depression, and chronic fatigue. Physical and psychological treatment may be the best or only options available to the chronic pain patient.