Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Psychalgia is short- and long-term episodes of pain that occur as the result of some underlying psychological disorder, rather than in response to some immediate physical injury. Brief episodes, as well as persistent symptoms, are indeed very real and painful for those experiencing psychalgia.

Although some cases of psychalgia occur in response to a previous injury, in rare cases, the pain stems purely from a mental ailment. In most cases, however, psychalgia causes existing pain as the result of some physical stimulus to feel more intense. Because the brain is the center for deciphering levels and location of discomfort, individuals with an underlying emotional disturbance are at higher risk for exhibiting psychalgia.


    Acute (pain that spikes briefly and then goes away).

  • Chronic (pain that persists and recurs over the course of weeks, months or even years).

Although researchers have investigated the sources and causes of pain, the medical community is still baffled by how the brain interprets this sensation. Our bodies contain massive networks of nerve receptors that transmit messages up the spine to the brain. Once these signals reach the brain, the brain figures out what area of the body is hurt, how badly it is hurt and what you should do to alleviate or minimize the pain.

However, because our bodies have so many nerve receptors, signals from different areas of the body can become crossed easily. When pain signals cross each other, you are likely to misinterpret the type, location and/or sensation of pain you are actually experiencing. For example, while your body may "feel" pain in one part when the pain is actually in another location (known as "referred pain"), crossed nerve signals can also cause you to experience pain without any stimuli, as is the case with psychalgia.

Risk Factors:

    The underlying organic problem or medical condition, if there is one. For example, fibromyalgia (a pain syndrome involving fibromuscular tissue), skeletal damage, pathology of an internal organ, migraine headache, and peptic ulcer all have characteristic patterns of pain and a particular set of causes.

  • Functional impairment and disability. Pain is exacerbated by loss of meaningful activities or social relationships. Disruption or loss may lead to isolation and resentment or anger, which further increases pain.

  • Emotional distress. Depression and anxiety are the most common correlates of pain, especially when the person suffering feels that the pain is unmanageable, or that the future only holds more severe pain and more losses.



Psychalgia can affect the body in many different ways. People with psychalgia may experience different types of bodily aches and pains, such as headaches, backaches, or stomach aches. In some people, psychalgia can disrupt their sleep leaving people feeling cranky and irritable. Like any chronic pain disorder, it can also interfere with a person's friendships and relationships.


When a patient sees a doctor about pain, his doctor will first make all attempts to identify a physical cause of the pain. If the patient is known to suffer from an emotional disorder, and no physical element can be identified as the source of pain, then the doctor may start to suspect that psychogenic pain is the cause.

After performing a series of tests (including MRIs, CT scans, blood tests, etc.), the doctor will be able to rule out or diagnose psychogenic pain.


Once a diagnosis has been made, patients will begin to work closely with pain specialists, therapists or psychiatrists and any other required specialists to treat both the physical and mental causes of their conditions.

Your medical team can help you determine which medications and therapies will best relieve the physical symptoms so that you and your therapist can work on the underlying mental issues that are causing or exacerbating the psychalgia. Possible ways to alleviate the physical pain include:

    Getting physical therapy, especially when the muscles and joints are experiencing pain.

  • Making dietary changes.

  • Sticking to a healthy exercise regimen.

  • Taking medication.

Alternative treatment options for psychalgia include:


  • Behavioral training.

  • Family counseling.

  • Hypnotherapy.

  • Occupational therapy.

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), the use of electrical nerve impulses to relieve pain.

Without treatment, individuals suffering from psychalgia may undergo negative lifestyle changes, including:

    Alcohol abuse.

  • Drug abuse.

  • Irritability.

  • Isolation.

  • Loss of sleep.

  • Memory loss.

  • Fatigue.

NOTE: The above information is for processing purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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