Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

Pain that lasts for three months or longer is called chronic. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong. It's normal for you to have pain when you are injured or ill. But pain that lasts for weeks, months or years is not normal.

Chronic pain can occur anywhere in your body. It can range from being mild and annoying to being so bad that it gets in the way of your daily activities.

Anyone can get chronic pain. It's more common in older adults, but it's not a normal part of aging. Older adults are more likely to have long-term medical problems, such as diabetes or arthritis, which can lead to ongoing pain.

What causes chronic pain?

The cause of chronic pain is not always clear. It may occur because brain chemicals that usually stop pain after you get better from an illness or injury are not working right. Or damaged nerves can cause the pain. Chronic pain can also occur without a known cause.

How is chronic pain treated?

Living with chronic pain can be hard. Especially when the cause is unknown. In addition to the physical pain, chronic pain can also lead to emotional effects which can include depression, anger, anxiety and fear.

If you’re experiencing chronic pain, talk to your doctor about making a clear treatment plan. It’s especially important to talk with your doctor when trying or changing any prescribed medicine. The best plan may include combining treatments.

What benefits does Harvard Pilgrim offer?*

Harvard Pilgrim provides coverage for many FDA-approved prescription non-opioid drug** products that are effective pain management alternatives and have a lesser potential for misuse than opioid drug products.

We also support a wide range of evidence-based treatments for pain management as alternatives to opioids including coverage for:

  • Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate certain points on or under the skin. This method of treating pain and many other conditions has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. 
  • Behavioral therapy:
    • Counseling is professional guidance to help a person, family, or group of individuals recognize and deal with issues that are interfering with their mental well-being. Counseling may help you cope. It can also help you deal with frustration, fear, anger, depression and anxiety.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to manage negative thoughts and behaviors. For pain management, CBT helps patients change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills.
    • Guided imagery is a pain intervention that uses relaxation techniques and visualization of calming mental images to manage acute and chronic pain.
    • Hypnotherapy is an alternative practice where a licensed hypnotherapist guides your mind to a highly focused mental state.
  • Chiropractic services uses spinal manipulation to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints such as back pain, neck pain, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia and joint pain.
  • Physical therapy releases the restrictions in the tight muscles and strengthens the weak ones using specially designed exercises and equipment. Physical therapy can help ease pain and help you function, move and live better.

Member resources

  • Members have access to Harvard Pilgrim’s Care Team, which can help you address your health concerns and alleviate worries. Contact one of our registered nurses today at (866) 750-2068.
  • Our Well-being program takes a holistic approach that centers on the whole person. We offer dynamic tools and personalized activities that support the entire spectrum of well-being at home and at work, including emotional, physical, and financial.
  • Our Mind the Moment mindfulness program provides access to online guided meditations and exclusive e-learning resources and discounts for members.
  • Discounts on complementary and alternative medicine, such as yoga. Visit Discounts & Savings to learn more.
  • A Behavioral Health Access Center, where members can speak confidentially with a licensed clinician for routine behavioral health inquiries. Contact them at (888) 777-HPHC.
  • provides access to licensed behavioral health clinicians who provide in-depth assessment and determines the most appropriate type and level of treatment. Use Access Code HPHC if you want to enter the site anonymously. 

View acupuncture flyer (WholeHealth Living)

View chiropractic care flyer (WholeHealth Living)

Living with chronic pain can be managed with the right combination of lifestyle changes, medical and behavioral interventions as determined by you and your doctor.

* Refer to My Plan Documents for details on your coverage.

**Not all employer-sponsored plans offer Harvard Pilgrim prescription drug benefits. Refer to My Plan Documents for details on your coverage.

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