What Is Chronic Pain Acceptance?

Chronic pain acceptance consists of a willingness to engage in activity despite pain, and acknowledgement of that pain without attempting to control or avoid it.1

“It is an adjustment to the emotional distress of pain that involves acceptance and commitment. It requires the ability to be mindful of the pain, but to choose not be wrapped up in the pain,” Dr. Meyer explained.

“Chronic pain acceptance is a new approach to suffering. It includes a realization that suffering with pain is a greater cause of disability than the pain itself,” noted Mekhala Samsi, PhD, in an interview with Clinical Pain Advisor.

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“People who can make space for the pain, accept it for what it is, and choose to pursue their values over their pain have a better quality of life. Suffering comes from the constant desire to fix or avoid the pain. This puts life on hold and increases suffering,” Dr. Samsi added.

Dr. Samsi is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois.

Chronic Pain Acceptance: A Learned Behavior

Chronic pain acceptance can be learned through acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

“The concept of acceptance is a difficult one for our ‘quick-fix’ society. Unfortunately, there are few options when it comes to fixing chronic pain, so we start with the concept that acceptance does not mean defeat,” explained Dr. Samsi, who uses ACT for chronic pain management with many of her patients.

“How you pitch ACT is important. You are not telling the patient that the pain is not real. But you need to get the patient to give up the struggle of controlling the pain,” Dr. Meyer emphasized.