Physical pain conditions should always be assessed by medical professionals. That being said, there are substantial differences between pain management—the conventional medicalized approach to treating pain, and a bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach known as Pain Recovery. Pain management is a paradigm driven by doctors and the healthcare system, the primary goal of which is to control, if not eliminate, pain. This is a more recent subspecialty of medicine. Most pain management specialists are trained as anesthesiologists, whose primary training is to put patients to sleep, literally. These physicians usually go through a fellowship training program to learn prevailing Western medical techniques to treat pain. Pain management involves prescribing opioid pain medications that often distort thinking and judgment, and, as I’ve exemplified, can be highly addictive. Pain management relies on physical interventions that range from less invasive to more invasive, such as physical therapy, steroid injections, nerve blocks, and surgeries in order to eliminate or decrease pain. Obviously, invasive procedures have their own risks, some of which are considerable. Pain management sometimes uses treatment modalities that are less traditional and minimally invasive, such as: acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and hydrotherapy, among others. These less invasive treatments, known as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), are also commonly utilized as part of an alternative approach to chronic pain: pain recovery. By reinforcing the illusion that pain can be eliminated or controlled, the pain management process inadvertently increases suffering. With most chronic pain conditions, though the pain may wax and wane, it rarely goes away. Therefore, the goal of eliminating pain altogether is, in the great majority of cases, simply not realistic. The basis of pain recovery is giving up the quest to have pain to disappear. Its goals are to learn ways to accept the existence of pain, develop the skills to live with it rather than attempting to numb or escape it, and improve functioning. This approach is designed to equip those afflicted with chronic pain to address their pain in healthier ways, and gain freedom from thinking, feeling, and acting like a victim, without the use of opiates or other habit-forming substances. Pain recovery is a solution-focused approach to treating chronic pain that encompasses mental, emotional, and spiritual, in addition to physical functioning. Chronic pain is like an smoke detector that goes on and becomes stuck in the “on” mode, continuously sounding a harrowing alarm at high volume. Pain recovery distinguishes between the actual pain and the suffering it causes, and focuses on achieving relief from suffering. Pain is unavoidable; suffering is not. It occurs in response to thoughts such as “Why me?” “It isn’t fair!” “This is horrible!” “I can’t stand it!” along with the spectrum of distressing emotions associated with pain. As mentioned in previous blog posts, Dr. Mel Pohl is a nationally recognized expert on chronic pain and addiction as co-occurring disorders. Dr. Pohl is the principal developer of the pain recovery model. He views suffering—the cognitive and emotional responses to pain that perpetuate and exacerbate it—as the true target of intervention. According to Dr. Pohl, an analysis of how patients in the LVRC Pain Recovery Program described their pain suggests that approximately 80 percent of it relates to suffering. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP). Add your thoughts and comments below and follow us on Facebook!