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Behavioral Health/Pain Psychology

Behavioral Health

It is well known and accepted that your state of mind can have a significant impact on how you perceive and manage your pain. The perception of pain is very complex, but the science of pain has taught us a great deal about all aspects of the neurophysiology of pain and how the brain processes pain signals from our bodies. Treating associated problems which may accompany pain can help reduce pain levels. These problems include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia


Recognizing the signs of depression is not always easy. If you are experiencing any of the feelings listed below, it is important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor:

  • Sadness
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Emotional ups and downs
  • Loss of interest in social or other (previously) fun activities
  • Trouble getting out of bed in the morning
  • Loss of appetite or energy
  • Agitation or anxiousness


Pain can lead to a fear and anxiety response that worsens the perception of pain, thus making your experience of pain tougher to cope with and can lead to a worsening of a chronic pain condition. Symptoms can include:

  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Fear
  • Feeling uptight

This aggravated pain experience then makes the start of the next pain episode more anxiety-producing and a learned cycle of increasing pain, fear, and anxiety is created.


A lack of restful sleep can have a negative effect on your ability to manage pain. If you experience symptoms of insomnia, you should bring this to the attention of your doctor:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or inability to concentrate

The science of pain perception

Spine or other pain is experienced individually through a complex interaction of variables including:

Through the advancement of knowledge of the science of pain has emerged the confirmation that we can make use of conscious skills and strategies to control the emotional affect and perceived intensity of pain.

Treating pain-associated mental health conditions

It is recommended that conservative care (non-surgical) practitioners include behavioral interventions in their treatment plan. Treatment options should be paired with the unique needs and preferences of each patient.

There are many non-medication strategies that can be used to gain some control over how you are affected by pain and managing the associated problems with mood, anxiety, or sleep. These and other useful methods for managing your pain can be learned through the help of a pain psychologist, or by working with other specialists.


Your doctor can help counsel you, or direct you to a specialist who is right for you.

  • Exercise – this is an ideal form of pain and mood management. Seek guidance on the appropriateness and safety of exercise for your condition from your doctor or physical therapist.
    • Aerobic (cardio) exercise – causes release of chemicals in the brain that help improve mood, decrease stress and anxiety, and increase sleep.
    • Gradually increase your amount of exercise to a goal time of 2-1/2 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week.
    • Choose an activity that you not only can tolerate, but also enjoy. Consider mixing types of exercise.
    • Biking, walking, swimming or pool walking, endurance strength training, yoga, Tai Chi, or Pilates are good examples.
  • Sleep hygiene – this entails having a good pre-sleep routine to promote natural sleep patterns, and includes:
    • Avoidance of television or computer work in bed
    • Stopping caffeine at or before lunch
    • Having a notepad by your bedside to write down any recurring thoughts or ideas so that you can “let them go”
  • Medications – may occasionally be used to treat pain, depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders.
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Behavioral Health Services

Behavioral health services are an important element of a comprehensive pain management strategy. The physiologic and cognitive-behavioral responses to pain can be altered with appropriate training and insight, leading to partial control of central processing of pain, or influence the activation of descending pain inhibition pathways.

Exceptional Pain Management Treatment

At the Denver Spine and Pain Institute, we’ve witnessed firsthand how debilitating pain can derail your quality of life. Our team is committed to providing you with the relief necessary to enjoy your favorite activities and perform routine daily activities with ease. Our goal is to help you live life to the fullest once again.


Our exclusive Connected Care Approach™ has been designed with your needs in mind, and it will get you back to enjoying life without the frustration and challenges that often come along with chronic pain. As part of this approach, you’ll receive:

  • A full spectrum of care options, including physician treatments, physical therapy, massage, diet and lifestyle coaching, behavioral health services and other state-of-the-art treatments
  • Individualized care plans to address your specific pain needs
  • Caring and therapeutic relationships with our team to ensure the best possible treatment
  • A detailed discussion of all your treatment options so that you can make an informed decision

We’ll work closely with you to identify and deliver the treatments necessary to achieve the pain relief you’re seeking.

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Please contact us today to schedule an appointment. The Denver Spine and Pain Institute serves patients in Denver and the surrounding areas of Colorado.

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