Pain exists. It is not “just in your head.” However, the way we think about or interpret pain dramatically influences how we experience pain.

It is nearly impossible to effectively treat physical pain without also treating its psychological aspects. The psychological aspects of pain change the way the brain functions, which in turn changes the intensity of the pain.

For chronic pain sufferers, the way you think about your pain is the aim of psychological therapy. This in no way implies that the pain is all in your head. It doesn’t mean that you suffer because of some psychological flaw. It does mean that there is a direct link between how you think and feel about your pain and the painful experience itself.

Psychological techniques serve to reduce the emotions that intensify pain and enhance the emotions that reduce pain. These techniques vary from the western clinical approach of biofeedback to the eastern approach of Buddhist meditation. What they have in common is the ability to reshape brain functions. Just as a pill or a shot can alter pain processing, changing your thoughts about pain can alter pain processing.

Behavioral therapies, cognitive therapies, or a combination of the two are some of the most popular psychological approaches to chronic pain management in the United States.