Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Home
  Learn more.
  Sign up for HPHConnect.
Medical Management
For Your Patient
News Center
Network Matters
Newsletter Archives
Newsletter Registration
Office Support
Provider Manual
Medicare Advantage
Research & Teaching
Resources & Links
Print    Text Size

Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

March 2013

Helping Patients Cope with Chronic Pain 

According to the Institute of Medicine, chronic pain affects about 100 million adults, which is more than the combined total of those affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Additionally, pain costs the nation more than $600 billion annually in medical treatment and lost productivity.

Generally, chronic pain is characterized as pain that has persisted for four to six months. Common chronic pain conditions include headaches, low back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself), and psychogenic pain (pain not due to past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage inside or outside the nervous system).

“Chronic pain syndrome” is the term used for a complex chronic pain problem that has interfered with many parts of a person’s life. Often, chronic pain syndrome heightens emotional stress, which in turn can significantly increase the experience of pain. When pain is long-lasting, it often leads to depression, and depression that is left untreated can make chronic pain more difficult to manage. Therefore, it’s important to monitor the member’s emotional well-being and screen for depression.

Additionally, the following suggestions may aid you in treating individuals with chronic pain and increasing their overall well-being:

  • Suggest creating measurable goals, so the individual can track progress
  • Recommend participation in a general fitness program
  • Evaluate whether the patient has become dependent on pain medication
  • Discuss the importance of being productive and cultivating a positive social life
  • Encourage the individual to maintain hope

A multidisciplinary approach to pain management often includes a referral to a behavioral health provider, who can work with the member and the entire treatment team to address emotional stress, depression, and other chronic pain issues. Treatment may include:

  • Identifying and addressing barriers to effectively coping with pain
  • Suggesting positive activities to help reduce the experience of pain
  • Exploring and addressing fears and anger about the condition
  • Teaching patients emotional acceptance
  • Learning behavioral techniques to reduce tension and stress

How United Behavioral Health can help your patients—For complex clinical situations, United Behavioral Health (UBH) is available to provide consultative assistance. To refer a patient for behavioral health services and facilitate the coordination of care, call UBH at (888) 777-4742.

Email this article to a colleague   

Receive Network Matters by e-mail

Network Matters Archives

Download printer-friendly version


New Cost Estimator Tool Coming to NH

Growing the Medicare Advantage Network


Selected Infusible Drugs Available Through Specialty Pharmacy

Members’ Rights and Responsibilities

Helping Patients Cope with Chronic Pain


Reminder: Billing for Access America


Eric H. Schultz,
President and Chief Executive Officer

Richard Weisblatt PhD,
Senior Vice President, Provider Network and Product Development

Joann Peck,
Manager, Network Planning and Administration

Annmarie Dadoly,

Kristin Edmonston,
Production Coordinator