New RHC Chronic Pain Workbook Offers Information and Tools to Navigate the Intersection of Physical Pain and Mental Health

We have been living in a pandemic with physical distancing for almost a full year. This pandemic has been stressful, isolating, and overwhelming for many of us. During the past year, our county’s mental health has worsened. According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “serious psychological distress was reported by 13.6% of US adults in April 2020 vs 3.9% in 2018.”

This increased rate of stress has exacerbated many people’s chronic pain. As explained further in resources like, many psychosocial factors affect chronic pain, including but not limited to stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and isolation. Additionally, in the past year, those with chronic pain may have not only had increased stress levels, but also faced decreased access to regular health care services (both physical and mental).

There is much we still have to learn about chronic pain: how it shows up in different people’s bodies, what causes it, and how to best treat it. However, something scientists do know about pain is that, in addition to physical function services, psychological and behavioral counseling can radically change the pain experience and empower patients to improve their functioning. In an ideal world, everyone would have access and time to see a pain psychologist or mental health provider, who can create person-centered treatment plans and guide therapy. However, we know that regular access to these health professionals is not a reality for many, especially during a pandemic.

In response to this problem, the RHC created a Chronic Pain Workbook to give patients a free, accessible tool to process more of their pain story and learn helpful pain management strategies.  This workbook recognizes that people with chronic pain are experts on their own pain experience. With motivation, information, and new tools, people with chronic pain have the power to bring more joy and function into their lives.

This workbook combines learning and activities on the neuroscience of chronic pain, effective behavioral tips, and ways to process and live a fuller life with pain. The book specifically focuses on how thoughts, emotions, and behavior change can impact chronic pain.

Made with the guidance and oversight of Dr. Sarah Buday, a Washington University pain psychologist, this workbook offers some of the helpful information she talks to her patients about every day. After reviewing this workbook, Dr. Buday excitedly spoke about the resource’s potential benefits to people with chronic pain:  

“Living with chronic pain is often confusing and frustrating, given that it can impact so many areas of one’s life. This workbook is a helpful start toward developing self-management of chronic pain that is not dependent on medications alone.”

Dr. Sarah Buday, Washington University pain psychologist

We hope that this workbook helps those with chronic pain and will be used in conversation with doctors and other healthcare providers. This book is not a replacement for medical care, but rather, a tool to expand access to evidence-based chronic pain management strategies. This workbook aims to help people with chronic pain lead meaningful lives despite the pain. Ultimately, we hope that this book empowers people to be active leaders in the management of their own chronic pain.

The Chronic Pain Workbook is part of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission (RHC)’s Chronic Pain Initiative, a regional effort to prevent and reduce the impact of chronic pain. For more information on chronic pain, visit the RHC’s website called, which offers tools, information, and videos to our community, including people with chronic pain and medical providers.

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