VA New England Healthcare System
Veterans' Healthy Living, Winter 2014
Treating Chronic Pain
Nearly everyone experiences a few aches and pains as they age, and pain is common after an illness or injury. But when there is no known cause for pain, or when pain doesn't get better with treatment, it can be an indication of chronic pain syndrome.
Dr. Amanda Adcock, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) for Pain Psychologist, VA Maine Healthcare System, says chronic pain lasts longer than a normal recovery period—usually three to six months or more. "Most often, we can't find a reason for the pain because nothing shows up on tests or exams to indicate what's causing it."
To diagnose chronic pain, Dr. Adcock says medical providers must rule out everything they possibly can. If they don't find a cause, however, this doesn't mean the pain is "all in your head." Instead, she says it is more like your nerves were turned on due to an illness or injury but were never turned off, so the pain persists.
Adcock says successfully treating chronic pain means addressing the mental and the physical components, both of which can be debilitating. She developed a five-day program to help Veterans understand the mind/body connection to help overcome the fear of pain associated with physical activity.
"We start exercising very slowly rather than rushing in. We teach them to listen to their body—not do more than their body tells them—but also to ignore their mind if it tells them to be afraid of movement."
During the week, Veterans can stay at an on-campus hotel without being admitted.
For more information, call 207-623-8411, extension 4185.
"Successfully treating chronic pain means addressing the mental and the physical components, both of which can be debilitating."