Unlike most injuries and disease processes, chronic pain does not follow the normal course of treatment or recovery. When we are sick or injured, the normal course of treatment is to go to bed and heal. Chronic pain does not respond to inactivity. Patients who suffer from chronic pain enter a pain cycle in which they decrease activity in an effort to decrease their pain condition. Long-term inactivity results in muscle weakness, a depletion of oxygen to the muscles resulting in painful muscle spasms, and atrophy. Therefore, a reduction in activity actually serves to increase the patient's pain disability. This decrease in activity also has a negative psychological impact including a decrease in social contacts, isolation from friends and work associates, and a tendency to focus on the pain condition. Chronic pain also results in a loss of self-worth, an increase in feelings of depression, stress, anxiety and physical tension. Patients are often frustrated by the lack of a cure by medical science. When the condition persists despite the best efforts of physicians and the patient, chronic pain sufferers often become depressed and disillusioned with the medical profession. Many patients feel that their physician does not believe that they are suffering.
The patient begins to become more and more focused on the sensation of pain and suffering instead of coping with their disability and learning how to regain their lives. The patient's family is also effected by chronic pain. The chronic pain suffer is often more irritable due to their inability to participate in previous family activities. Family relations are often strained and the patient becomes increasingly isolated and alone. All of these factors increase the patient's subjective pain experience and pain disability.