Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for more than 3 months and is different from the normal kind of pain that everybody feels from time to time when they pull a muscle or cut a finger. A person experiencing chronic pain has to endure the discomfort for months or even years after an injury has been inflicted. The pain can negatively affect an individual’s normal life practices as well as interfere with the well-being of their mental health.

Scientifically, the feeling of pain is due to a series of electrical impulses that run across the nervous system giving the body a message that something is not right. When a part of the body is hurt, the pain sensors in that area are turned on and send electric signal messages from one nerve to another until it reaches the brain. The brain then translates the message to a form that the body can understand which is pain. In normal pain, once the cause of the pain is taken care of, the electric signals automatically stop emitting energy but in the case of chronic pain, the signals keep firing impulses even after the injury has healed.

Causes and symptoms of chronic pain
In some rare cases, chronic pain may start all by itself without any kind of injury afflicted to the body. In most cases, though, chronic pain is caused either by the existence of an abnormal medical condition or by a direct physical injury such as the ones below:
- infections caused by bacteria, protozoan parasites, and various invasive viruses
- injuries caused by accidents or after undergoing a surgical procedure
- damage to a nerve can cause chronic pain
- people suffering from gout or arthritis
- migraines and persistent headaches can cause chronic pain
- fibromyalgia, a medical condition that is known to cause muscle pain in the entire body
Chronic pain can be categorized as either mild or severe. It can also be consistent (pain that is present day after day) or the type that comes and goes intermittently. The ache can also be accompanied by other feelings such as:
- a burning sensation
- a feeling of being squeezed
- stinging
- stiffness of muscles
- soreness
- throbbing pain.
Chronic pain makes an individual feel extremely tired even without having undertaken any physical activity that can cause exhaustion. The pain can also make you feel weaker than normal especially because of lacking enough food energy due to the poor appetite caused by ache discomfort. Chronic pain can also cause insomnia, mood change, and a high fever.

Chronic pain and mental health
Chronic pain interferes with your normal day to day activities. It negatively affects your self-esteem by giving you the undesirable feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration, and anger. Research has found that there is a great connection between your emotions and the pain you feel. When injured, you tend to feel depressed and this can make the pain feel worse than it already is. Pain also interferes with your sleep and elevates the level of stress. Combination of both stress and inadequate sleep has been proven to exaggerate pain.

This connection between chronic pain and mental health is why patients are advised to undergo psychological treatment therapy to relieve chronic pain.

Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy also known as CBT is a form of therapy that involves a verbal conversation between a therapist and a patient with the aim of identifying the negative thoughts and behaviors that are responsible for the exaggerated pain. The talk therapy further proceeds to develop various skills on how to change these thoughts and behaviors.

CBT studies explain that an individual is able to shape his/her own experiences including the feeling of pain to a point of overcoming the external factors responsible for causing the pain. The ability of an individual to perceive situations in a positive way can enable them to change their pain awareness mechanism and develop a better strategy of coping with the discomfort even if the actual pain level is still constant. Pain perception is all in the mind and if you address those thoughts and behaviors that influence the feeling, you can be able to manage the pain.

Use of Cognitive behavioral therapy to relieve chronic pain
With a few days of undergoing a properly done behavioral therapy, an individual is able to get relief from the discomfort of chronic pain in the following number of ways:
- Therapy will help you change the way you perceive pain. It changes your thoughts, behaviors as well as your emotions. It in return gives you better behavioral strategies that help to cope with pain. After the discomfort of pain is managed, your life quality becomes better each day and you will ultimately be able to undertake your daily duties as normal
- CBT changes the brain’s physical responses that make pain feel exaggerated. Due to the stress caused by pain, the brain secretes chemicals that control pain such as serotonin and norepinephrine hormones. Undergoing CBT helps reduce electric signals that trigger the secretion of these chemicals in the brain. This mechanism is responsible for empowering the body’s natural pain relief response
- Other methods of pain management are also used alongside CBT in treating chronic pain which includes physical therapy, medications, massage and in some cases, surgery. In all of these methods, CBT has proven to be one of the most effective, less risky and with no side effects as compared to using medications and surgery
- CBT creates an environment that promotes a problem - solving kind of attitude to a person whose chronic pain has brought a feeling of helplessness. If a proper brain action is taken against the pain felt, one will feel more in control of the situation and be able to impact the pain.
- CBT involves giving assignments that are to be done even when at home to help keep track of your feelings and thoughts associated with pain
- CBT emphasizes on teaching life skills to an individual which he/she can use in the future to manage other problems they may encounter such as anxiety, stress, and depression
- It promotes a do-it-yourself attitude that will one day help you cope with the same situation if it occurs again. Also, you may be able to help a person facing such a problem especially in a place/situation where a therapist is not available
CBT’s for chronic pain usually consist of individual or group sessions that may last up to 2 hours. One should expect to attend between 9-23 sessions for it to be fully successful.

Author's Bio: 

I am Amelia Grant, journalist, and blogger. I think that information is a great force that is able to change people’s lives for the better. That is why I feel a strong intention to share useful and important things about health self-care, wellness and other advice that may be helpful for people. Being an enthusiast of a healthy lifestyle that keeps improving my life, I wish the same for everyone.

Our attention to ourselves, to our daily routine and habits, is very important. Things that may seem insignificant, are pieces of a big puzzle called life. I want to encourage people to be more attentive to their well-being, improve every little item of it and become healthier, happier, stronger. All of us deserve that. And I really hope that my work helps to make the world better.