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Murray J. McAllister, PsyD

Murray J. McAllister, PsyD

Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is a pain psychologist and consults to health systems on improving pain. He is the editor and founder of the Institute for Chronic Pain (ICP). The ICP is an educational and public policy think tank. In its mission is to lead the field in making pain management more empirically supported, the ICP provides academic quality information on chronic pain that is approachable to patients and their families. 

Apr 27, 2012

Social Stigma

What is stigma?

Stigma is the social disapproval of a characteristic of a person and, typically, the characteristic is not changeable or not easily changeable. The disapproval is a critical judgment that an individual is not normal and has less worth than those in the norm. A natural response to stigma is shame and shame-based defensive anger.

Central sensitization is a condition of the nervous system that is associated with the development and maintenance of chronic pain. When central sensitization occurs, the nervous system goes through a process called wind-up and gets regulated in a persistent state of high reactivity. This persistent, or regulated, state of reactivity lowers the threshold for what causes pain and subsequently comes to maintain pain even after the initial injury might have healed.

What is a chronic pain syndrome?

Your doctor has told you that you have a chronic pain syndrome. What does it mean?

In most cases, chronic pain starts with an acute injury or illness. If the pain of this injury or illness lasts longer than six months, it’s then considered chronic pain. Sometimes, chronic pain subsequently causes complications. These complications, in turn, can make the pain worse. A chronic pain syndrome is the combination of chronic pain and the secondary complications that are making the original pain worse.

Patients and healthcare providers commonly think of pain as a symptom of an underlying injury or illness. Say, for example, you hurt your low back while lifting. Perhaps, you’ve injured a muscle or ligament, or perhaps it’s an injury to the spine, like a disc bulge or herniation. Either way, you now have pain and the pain is the symptom of the injury. The same might be true for any health condition that causes pain, particularly when it first starts.


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  • Shame and Pain

    Shame is an emotion that we don’t talk about much in pain management. We should, though, because people with persistent pain commonly experience shame in the interactions that they have with healthcare providers, friends and family. What is shame? Shame…
  • What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Pain?

    Cognitive behavioral therapy is a traditional form of therapy that is used for a great many types of health conditions. Historically beginning in the 1970’s, it was first used as treatments for chronic pain and depression,1, 2 but later applied to…
  • Why See a Psychologist for Pain?

    People are sometimes surprised that there are psychologists who are not mental health providers. It’s also true for people with persistent pain who might wonder why their physician referred them to a psychologist for the management of pain. ‘I’m not…
  • Whatever Happened to Backache?

    You’d think that we’d all agree on what back pain is. Pain in the low back is almost as common as days of the week. Most everyone has had or will have back pain in the course of their lives…
  • Should the Definition of Opioid Addiction Change?

    Twenty some odd years ago, the American Academy of Pain Medicine and the American Pain Society, two large pain-related professional organizations, teamed up to agree upon what it means to have both chronic pain and be addicted to opioid pain…

    Learn more »»

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