EMDR Therapy for Chronic Pain Arizona

Chronic pain is a leading health concern for millions of Americans. When you are in pain, it can feel as though your life is unfulfilling and your future is bleak. Every aspect of life is impacted by pain, including working, engaging with family and friends, and enjoying hobbies. Those enduring chronic pain report higher levels of relationship conflict than pain-free individuals. In fact, relational conflict has been shown to increase proinflammatory processes that exacerbate pain.

How Your Brain Perceives Pain

Pain is a signal that something is wrong with your body. When we feel pain, receptors send messages through nerve fibers to the spinal cord and brain stem. The brain processes this information, resulting in a conscious perception of pain.

The Gate Control Theory

The Gate Control Theory posits that pain messages can be tuned down or amplified before they even reach the brain. Thus, the perception of pain can be modified through the nerves, impacting how the brain will perceive the pain sensation. Psychological factors, such as your emotional state, can impact how much pain you feel. Traumatic memories about pain, abuse, neglect, and your attitude influence pain sensations.

When the pain gate opens, pain intensifies. Stress, anger, boredom, and depression are just some of the emotions that can open the gate. Lack of activity is another. When the gate closes, pain is lessened. Relaxation, coping skills, and physical activity are some of the ways to reduce pain. EMDR therapy aims to close the gate.

The Gate Control Theory is just one theory about how we perceive pain. The Specificity, Pattern, and Neomatrix theories also provide explanations for pain. Pain is a complex physiological and psychological experience that not one theory completely explains.

Types of Pain

Pain is categorized into different types:

Nociceptive Pain: This type of pain is caused by injury to your body, such as a burn or cut. Other forms of nociceptive pain include aching, sharp, or throbbing sensations. This kind of pain may be continually present or intermittent.

Neuropathic Pain: This is caused by abnormalities in the system that carries and interprets pain—the problem may be in the nerves, spinal cord, or brain. This type of pain is often felt as burning, tingling, or shooting. A light touch or cold can trigger neuropathic pain. People may be overly sensitive to stimuli such as scratchy clothes or someone’s touch. This pain can be caused by physical damage to nerves and dysfunction of the spinal cord pain signaling.

Psychogenic Pain: This kind of pain is psychologically driven. Although the physical sensation of pain is present, the intensity is heightened due to psychological factors.

Pain can also be categorized as acute or chronic. Acute pain results after a bodily injury, such as a broken toe or cut. Often, acute pain ceases after healing. Chronic pain may result from persistent tissue or nerve damage. Certain medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia, can also cause chronic pain. In some cases, there is no physical cause for the pain, even after healing. Chronic pain can trigger insomnia, depression, hopelessness, irritability, and other distressing emotions.

Over time, chronic pain perceptions can get “locked” into the nervous system. Although we often think of pain as primarily a physical sensation, pain manifests in your emotional state, memories, intrusive thoughts, and behaviors.

Neurological Systems Involved in Pain Perception

The brain has integrated neurological systems involved in the perception of pain. Neuronal cells are part of a “pain network.” Pain doesn’t reside in just one part of the brain. Instead, the feeling of pain involves multiple areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the insula. When the activity of these areas is minimized, it is thought that pain reduction can happen.

How EMDR Therapy Can Help with Chronic Pain

EMDR therapy offers a psychological approach to treating chronic pain. It is used to desensitize and reprocess the trauma-associated pain memories. Many people experience traumatic events associated with their pain. For example, if you had a tragic accident that caused an injury, the resulting memories may be impacting your sensations of pain. People who have been abused are at higher risk for chronic pain issues, illustrating the complex interaction between physical and psychological influences.

EMDR therapy addresses the distressing thoughts and memories associated with pain. You may be struggling with intrusive thoughts or images about your pain. These can trigger feelings of shame, guilt, frustration, anger, and sadness. EMDR facilitates new perspectives along with a release of negative thoughts and memories. Additionally, with EMDR therapy, you may alleviate future pain events and possible pain triggers.

EMDR has been shown to reduce the perception of pain and triggers a relaxation response. It can stimulate the nervous system so that the endogenous healing process is activated. Additionally, EMDR promotes self-awareness and positive self-talk.

Mindfulness training and behavioral strategies are other therapies integrated into EMDR to help cope with pain. These combined therapies can be effective at helping you manage chronic pain.

Integrating EMDR with Other Treatments

Psychological therapies are often used in conjunction with medical interventions, such as physical therapy, surgery, and pain medications. Working with other healthcare professionals, the goal is to improve your overall functioning and quality of life. In addition to a mental health professional, you may involve your primary physician, nurse, physical therapist, and occupational therapist.

Starting Chronic Pain Counseling

If you are suffering from chronic pain and would like to add psychological treatments to your care, Dr. Mazzei is here to help you. She is a Health Psychologist with years of experience helping people better manage pain. If you have a team of healthcare providers, she can coordinate care with them with your permission. During the initial consultation, she will talk with you about how your condition has impacted you and discuss your goals for therapy. Working together, you will address the long-standing issues that caused your pain and start on a path of emotional healing. Dr. Mazzei is available for online counseling in Chandler, AZ.

How We Can Help

If you are suffering from chronic pain, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how Dr. Mazzei can help you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Text us today at (480) 448-6755 or email
  2. Our staff will find a time that works for you to meet with Dr. Mazzei
  3. Begin your journey towards a fulfilling and healthier life