Therapy for Chronic Pain 

What is Chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that persists or recurs for an extended period of time. It can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions or injuries, and it can persist even after the underlying cause has healed. Chronic pain can have a significant impact on your quality of life and frequently necessitates ongoing management and treatment to relieve symptoms.

What is adaptive versus non-adaptive pain?

Pain can be thought of as the alarm system of the body, it might not be pleasant but it is adaptive and is there to tell you when something is wrong. When there is an injury, pain forces you to slow down and protect yourself so you can heal. Acute pain, which occurs when there is an injury and forces you to slow down and protect yourself so that you can heal, generally fades and gradually disappears over time with healing. However, pain can appear even when there is no apparent injury. When pain becomes chronic, your inner “alarm system” is faulty and the pain message is no longer adaptive or helpful. Your brain learns and expects more pain and your nervous system generates pain signals, creating what is called centralized pain.

How does chronic pain affect mental health?

Dealing with chronic pain and illness daily can create suffering, hardship, and loss, and it can also result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger. Chronic pain and illness can often be invisible and not easily noticeable to others, leading to possible feelings of alienation and resentment.

What can increase or decrease your feeling of pain?

There is a lot of evidence that your perception of pain can make pain more tolerable or worse. Fear and stress are also factors that can make pain better or worse. Have you ever noticed what factors affect your pain? Using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, those factors are explored and identified in order to help provide you with tools to better manage your pain with the goal of making pain more tolerable and having pain interfere less with your life.

How can Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) help with chronic pain?

Treatments supported by scientific research, such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), can help teach you tools and strategies to better cope with your pain and the difficulties that surround it. They can help with the exploration and identification of emotional and cognitive factors that can influence the experience of pain. Here are some ways CBT can help you with chronic pain: 

  1. Changing negative thinking patterns: CBT assists in identifying and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs about pain. You can minimize your distress and increase your coping abilities by replacing negative thoughts with more balanced ones.
  2. Addressing emotional factors: Chronic pain frequently causes emotional discomfort and distress, such as despair, worry, or anger. You can benefit from CBT by learning emotional regulation skills and stress management techniques, or by exploring the relationship between pain and your mood.
  3. Developing coping skills: CBT provides numerous coping techniques to properly handle discomfort and pain. Relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, and guided imagery may be used to assist you to relax your body and reduce muscle tension. Furthermore, problem-solving and goal-setting approaches might help you identify adaptive ways to deal with pain-related issues in your daily life.
  4. Behaviour modification: CBT assists you in identifying maladaptive behaviours that may contribute to pain and impairment. It promotes the adoption of healthier behaviours while discouraging the practice of harmful ones.
  5. Enhancing self-management skills: CBT teaches you how to better control your discomfort and pain on your own. Setting realistic goals, pacing tasks to minimize overexertion, arranging frequent rest periods, and employing effective problem-solving skills are all part of this. By playing an active role in your pain management you can regain a sense of control and autonomy, which can improve your quality of life.

How does physical activity affect chronic pain?

Avoiding physical activity and exercise due to fear of experiencing more pain is an understandable response but it can contribute to a vicious cycle when pain becomes chronic. Slowing down is normal when pain is acute, but avoiding activity when pain is chronic can contribute to a loss of overall physical functioning, less pain tolerance over time through physical deconditioning, as well as increased anxiety, fear, and worry about pain and the risk of reinjury. Pain can be extremely unpleasant, but in the case of chronic pain, it is often no longer a signal for danger. A kinesiologist will provide a physical evaluation by assessing capacities such as flexibility, strength, and endurance in order to create an exercise plan that is right for you that takes your pain into account. Beginning to move again with the accompaniment of a trained, empathetic professional who has experience working with individuals with chronic pain, can allow you to decrease anxiety, fear, and avoidance of pain, while also increasing pleasure and self-efficacy related to the body and your overall functioning. The goal is to break the vicious cycle of chronic pain through respectful movement and pacing, while also making sure to avoid exacerbating pain.

Ready to take the next step?

We are currently accepting new clients for online video or phone appointments.

Sean Scanlan, M.A., Psychologist

Supervisor of Chronic Pain Therapists

Sean Scanlan is a licensed psychologist with over 10 years of professional experience, having completed his training at McGill University. He has worked in a variety of settings with individuals and groups, including private and public health settings, as well as in community crisis intervention. Sean primarily uses a cognitive-behavioral approach, which consists of an integration of CBT and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and specializes in working with people who struggle with emotional or interpersonal problems. Specific to pain treatment and management, he has many years of experience helping individuals dealing with chronic pain and fibromyalgia, as well as other chronic illness and health issues. His objective is to provide a warm, accepting, and safe atmosphere in which difficulties can be explored in order to collaborate to find workable solutions and help individuals get back to living a meaningful life. Sean also provides individual and group supervision to graduate level interns and equivalency candidates for the Order of Psychologists of Quebec (OPQ).

If needed, we also offer the services of a kinesiologist to help with your chronic pain management, to work alongside your therapist.

Marc Bétournay, Kinesiologist

Marc Bétournay is a kinesiologist with over 35 years of experience, holding a degree from Ottawa University’s kinanthropology program. He has specialized in chronic pain for over 15 years, having dedicated his expertise to helping people suffering from chronic pain and other conditions leading to physical limitations. He has contributed to the field both in the private sector, collaborating with l’Institut de kinesiologie du Québec, and within the public healthcare arena at CRPD Constance Lethbridge (CIUSSS centre ouest), where he served as a kinesiologist and clinical coordinator of the chronic pain program. For Marc, it is an honor to accompany individuals on their journey towards a more normal and fulfilling life by assisting them in managing and recovering from chronic pain.

Marc services are only available by referral from our chronic pain therapists.