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Stress and Pain

Dr. John D. Otis is the Director of Medical Psychology at Boston University School of Medicine and the director of the Pain Management Psychology Services at the VA Boston Healthcare System.  He is also Associate Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Boston University.  In his newest book, Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach, Workbook, which is part of our Treatments That Work Series, Otis provides a guide to increasing productivity in the face of chronic pain.  Below are some tips, excerpted from the book, which will help you decrease the stress in your life, which in turn decreases your pain.

Stress and pain reinforce each other. You may have noticed that when you are stressed out, your pain gets worse. On the other hand, chronic pain is often a source of stress. This can result in a cycle of pain and stress…

Ways to Decrease Stress:

Given the relationship between stress and pain, it is important to learn how to manage stress. The good news is that there are things you can do to decrease your stress….

Change Lifestyle Habits:
-Decrease caffeine intake (coffee, tea, colas, chocolate)
-Maintain a balanced diet and decrease consumption of junk food
-Eat Slowly and at regular intervals
-Exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes three times per week)
-Get adequate sleep (figure out how much you need)
-Take time-outs and leisure time (do something for yourself every day)
-Do relaxation exercises (e.g., breathing, imagery, PMR)

Change How you Approach Situations:
-Time and money management
-Problem-solving coping skills

Change your Thinking:

-Have realistic expectations (when expectations are more realistic, life seems more manageable)
-Keep a sense of humor (being able to see the humor in the things helps o lighten the situation)
-Have a support system (speak with someone or write down your thoughts)
-Focus on the positive (think half-full versus half-empty)
-Challenge negative thinking using cognitive restructuring skills

Recent Comments

  1. thomas kraemer, MD

    Hello Dr Otis
    I am a PM&R physician in Minnesota and provide aggressive spinal rehabilitation for patients with chronic neck/back pain.
    We are trying to integrate CBT techniques into our rehabilitation program or at least encourage homework completion assigned in group/individual CBT treatment.
    Do you do on-site training in CBT for non-psychologists(MD, PT, OT)?

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