Living with Chronic Pain

5 Tips to Manage Pain Catastrophizing


Pain catastrophizing involves overestimating the negative effects of pain and placing significant focus on both the presence of pain and the feelings of helplessness surrounding pain. It can worsen pain sensations and increase feelings of depression. In addition, pain catastrophizing can reduce the effectiveness of treatments and can negatively impact social and emotional functioning. For these reasons, it is important for individuals to learn to minimize or eliminate pain catastrophizing.

Five tips to manage pain catastrophizing include the following:

  1. Make sure physical health is addressed. Reducing pain catastrophizing should be part of a comprehensive pain management plan. While individuals work to eliminate catastrophizing, they should continue with physical treatments, such as necessary medications, physical therapy, or rehabilitation.
  2. Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves learning how to change negative thought patterns. Individuals with chronic pain can learn to recognize any irrational thoughts regarding pain and replace them with positive, reality-based thoughts. CBT may also include relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery or biofeedback.
  3. Eliminate misunderstandings. Pain catastrophizing is often related to misunderstandings about a condition or prognosis. Asking a medical professional for more information or a thorough explanation can help eliminate misunderstandings.
  4. Try mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that involves focusing on the present moment without judgement, simply allowing thoughts to enter and leave the mind. This can help reduce distress and pain.
  5. Consider medication if needed. No medications are available to treat pain catastrophizing; however, if the catastrophizing is related to a mental health condition such as depression, antidepressants may help.
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