There are many resources available to the general public that can help patients with chronic pain understand their condition better and learn how to manage it more effectively. Several other resources have been developed to help people manage depression, anxiety, and other mental and physical conditions that often accompany chronic pain.
Below you’ll find a variety of resources that we often recommend to our patients.
How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide, by Toni Bernhard, J.D.
The author of this book was a high-functioning attorney and college professor when she developed a chronic illness that forced her to retire. She describes her journey with chronic illness over the past several years with an emphasis on the many things that she has learned to help her adjust to her condition and continue to live a gratifying life.
Managing Pain Before it Manages You, by Margaret A. Caudill, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.
This book covers the gamut of chronic pain self-management techniques, including education about chronic pain, relaxation exercises, stress management, activity pacing, cognitive behavior therapy, nutrition, and effective communication.
Less Pain, Fewer Pills, by Beth Darnall, Ph.D.
This book was developed primarily for people who are considering tapering off of their opioid medications and learning other strategies to manage their pain. The 1st several chapters are devoted to describing the risks and benefits of long-term treatment with opioids. The remainder of the book describes the role of cognitive behavior therapy in chronic pain management. A relaxation CD is included.
The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit: 10 Simple Steps to Ease Your Pain, by Beth Darnall, Ph.D.
This is a condensed version of the book described just above by the same author. A relaxation CD is included.
Chronic Pain Self-Management Program: Workbook, by Sandra M. LeFort, Ph.D., R.N., and Lisa Webster, R.N.
This is a “hands-on” approach that covers pain education and many aspects of self-management, including activity pacing, nutrition, effective communication, and the importance of good sleep. Much attention is given to increasing physical activity and exercise. Also included is the “Moving Easy Program” CD, which is a set of easy-to-follow exercises that can be performed at home.
The Fibro Manual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor, by Ginevra Liptan, M.D.
The author of this book began to develop fibromyalgia when she was a medical student. Because of her own personal experience, she has devoted her career to understanding fibromyalgia and treating patients with that condition. She describes in great detail several proven strategies that can be used to minimize the pain and stress of fibromyalgia.
Yoga for Pain Relief, by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
Just as the title suggests, this book trains the reader in a variety of mild yoga poses that can help with stretching and pain relief. Illustrations of the exercises are provided.
Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach (Workbook), by John D. Otis, Ph.D.
The workbook format of this book requires active participation on the part of the reader to practice relaxation techniques, activity pacing, and cognitive behavior therapy. Several worksheets are included to document and track progress. Be sure to get the workbook version.
The Pain Survival Guide: How to Reclaim Your Life, by Dennis C. Turk, Ph.D., and Frits Winter, Ph.D.
This is one of the first “self-help” books for people with chronic pain; both authors have been pioneers in the field of pain psychology for over 25 years. Their book explains the importance of self-management in chronic pain and provides very practical information regarding how to make very basic changes in thought and behavior patterns.
Managing Chronic Illness
Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, by Kate Lorig, Dr.P.H and others.
This book was written to help people gain better control over any sort of chronic condition, not just chronic pain. Topics covered include exercise and physical activity, using the power of the mind, healthy eating and weight management, and communication with family, friends, and healthcare providers. Several additional chapters are dedicated to various common chronic conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and lung disease.
The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles, by Terry Wahls, M.D.
The author of this book is a physician who developed multiple sclerosis (M.S.) and then went on to research and develop nontraditional approaches to treating her disease. She was able to greatly improve her own symptoms through the combination of a nutrient-rich paleo diet and a regimen of neuromuscular stimulation. She also found that this program can be beneficial in treating a variety of other autoimmune conditions, many of which involve chronic pain. She describes her findings and her approach in this book.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns, M.D.
This was one of the very first books to explain cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to the general public. The book describes the origin and theory of CBT, the research that supports its effectiveness in treating depression, and the techniques that are used in this approach. Many people have benefitted from just reading the book and applying the techniques to their own situation, while others have used it in conjunction with individual psychotherapy.
The Feeling Good Handbook, by David Burns, M.D.
This book is a follow-up companion to the one described just above by the same author but in a “handbook” format that includes a variety of self-help worksheets and exercises.
Mind over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, by Dennis Greenberger, Ph.D., and Christine Padesky, Ph.D.
This is a very user-friendly book that combines easy-to-understand terminology with a variety of worksheets for the application of cognitive behavior therapy to depression and other forms of psychological distress.
The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, by Mark Williams, Ph.D., John Teasdale, Ph.D., Zindel Segal, Ph.D., and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
As suggested in the title, this book describes a way to use mindfulness meditation to manage depression. Included with the book is an audio CD that guides the listener through basic mindfulness techniques as well as a full body scan that can be used to enhance relaxation.
The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution, by David A. Clark, Ph.D., and Aaron T. Beck, M.D.
The second author of this book, Dr. Aaron Beck, is the person who is credited with conceiving and developing cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). This book is thus an authoritative explanation of the theory and practice of CBT for managing anxiety and worry with several practical worksheets provided. The final chapters of this book focus on panic disorder, social anxiety, and chronic worry.
The Mindful Way through Anxiety: Break Free from Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life, by Susan M. Orsillo, Ph.D., and Lizabeth Roemer, Ph.D.
This book is an application of mindfulness meditation to the problems of anxiety and chronic worry. Several scenarios describe how anxiety can become problematic in many different ways. The authors then walk the reader slowly through the development of a mindfulness meditation practice routine.
Worry Less, Live More: The Mindful Way through Anxiety Workbook, by Susan M. Orsillo, Ph.D., and Lizabeth Roemer, Ph.D.
This is a companion to the book described just above by the same authors, but with much more attention given to worksheets and writing practices.
Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
The author of this book is the person who is credited with bringing mindfulness meditation to the attention of Western medicine. The theory and practice of mindfulness meditation is fully described along with its application to the management of chronic illness and stress more generally.
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress, by John Teasdale, Ph.D., Mark Williams, Ph.D., and Zindel Segal, Ph.D.
As the title suggests, this book lays out a step-by-step program to help the reader learn and apply mindfulness meditation to all forms of emotional distress. An audio CD is included that walks the reader through a variety of exercises that includes mindful breathing, mindful movement, and a full body scan.
What is Chronic Pain? (Australian video)
This video describes how chronic pain is different from acute pain in that chronic pain involves a sensitization of the nervous system. Basic strategies for chronic pain self-management are also described.
Chronic Pain versus Acute Pain
This is a good description of the difference between acute pain and chronic pain and how acute pain can sometimes turn into a chronic condition. There is also a very brief discussion of how medications that can work for acute pain do not necessarily work for chronic pain.
Tame the Beast: It’s time to rethink persistent pain
This video provides an easy-to-understand explanation of pain and the role of the brain and nervous system in the development of chronic pain. Also provided is information on how to “train the brain” to get better management of chronic pain.
Explaining chronic pain: The role that stress plays and the creation of learned nerve pathways
This lecture describes the difference between pain caused by tissue damage and chronic pain caused by faulty nerve pathways. The lecturer also describes how fear and stress can activate the pain nerve pathways and how “no pain nerve pathways” can be activated by “knowledge, power, and confidence.”
Back Pain and Your Brain, by William S. Marras, Ph.D. at TEDxOhioStateUniversity
This lecture provides a very good description of how degenerative disc disease (DDD) can develop with very clear illustrations. The lecturer describes the various factors that can contribute to DDD and low back pain, including physical factors, individual factors (e.g., personality traits), and psychosocial factors (e.g., emotional stress).
This video illustrates the difference between acute pain and chronic pain as well as the difference in appropriate treatment strategies. The narrator explains that all forms of pain are processed and experienced in the brain, but that acute pain involves unhealed tissue damage while chronic pain involves sensitization of the nervous system. Treatment of chronic pain thus involves behavioral changes as well as “retraining” of the brain and the nervous system.
Understanding Pain: Brainman Chooses
This video emphasizes the importance of focusing on “the whole person” when devising a plan for the management of chronic pain. The specific roles of emotional well-being, social well-being, and basic health management (sleep, exercise, and diet) are described.
How The Brain Shapes Pain And Links Ouch With Emotion
This article and accompanying NPR audio podcast describe the role of the brain in chronic pain as well as the importance of the relationship between pain and emotion.
Online Audio & Video (eg. relaxation exercises)
Calm, the #1 app for Meditation and Sleep, in either a free trial or low-cost subscription
This website includes a variety of different audio and video clips that can assist with meditation and sleep through either music, soothing sounds, mindfulness meditation practice, or “sleep stories.”
Calm – Meditate, Sleep, Relax, in either a free trial or low-cost subscription
This app was developed by Calm.com described above and includes many of the same features.
Headspace: Meditation and Sleep, either a free version or by low-cost subscription
This app includes several different “courses” such as managing anxiety, letting go stress, falling asleep, and personal growth
Manage My Pain, available in “Lite” (free) and “Pro” ($3.99 one-time fee) versions
This app is designed to help track changes in the intensity and quality of pain as well as changes in medications and other interventions. Reports can be printed out for personal records and for sharing with treating providers.