Pain rehabilitation programs offer nondrug options for managing chronic pain. These may include physical, occupational and psychological therapy.
Pain rehabilitation programs explore various ways to help control pain and identify factors that contribute to pain. These programs generally are intended for individuals who have experienced a significant decline in daily functioning and quality of life as a result of chronic pain.
In most pain rehabilitation programs, a pain professional, pain psychologist and other specialists work together as an interdisciplinary team.
They incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help identify and replace negative thoughts and unhealthy behaviors. This can help you get back to your regular activities and improve your quality of life.
The program also might include physical therapy, occupational therapy, biofeedback, relaxation techniques, stress management and complementary medicine.
Physical therapy focuses on reducing pain through a regular exercise program that incorporates flexibility, aerobic and strengthening exercises. Physical therapy is primarily based on proper body mechanics — using muscles and joints correctly to limit pain.
Even when you have pain, movement is important. Movement speeds recovery and may help prevent acute pain from becoming chronic pain.
Physical therapists can tailor an exercise program to your individual condition and goals. They also may employ nonexercise treatments, such as ultrasound, heat or ice therapy, and massage. Braces, splints and assistive devices also might help.
Pain can keep you from taking part in your normal activities, including going to work or having fun with family or friends. Occupational therapy helps provide skills and strategies to help manage pain, so it interferes less with daily life, allowing you to engage in your life — even if full pain relief isn't possible.
Occupational therapists may suggest using assistive tools, such as a walking cane or a jar opener, to help compensate for skills that may be impaired by your pain or disability. Sometimes, the work or home environment can be changed to make tasks easier.
Changing your mindset
Psychological counselors often can help you view your pain in a different way, which can help you develop better coping skills so that you can feel more in control of your situation.
Tension and stress can exacerbate your pain, so relaxation techniques such as meditation and guided imagery may be useful.
Support groups — either online or in person — provide access to people who are facing similar situations, so that you can share concerns and coping strategies. While there is no cure for many forms of chronic pain, you can learn ways to participate more fully in life despite your pain.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.