This article addresses the essential role that pain plays in the rehabilitation of sports injury. It will describe important information and approaches that applied sport psychologists can use to more effectively manage pain in injured athletes. The article includes a brief discussion of the most accepted theories of pain. Types of pain that injured athletes may experience and how they can learn to discriminate between them will be discussed. The article will also consider how pain can be a useful tool as information about injured athletes’ current status in recovery and the need to modify their rehabilitation regimens. The value of measuring pain will be examined with emphasis on determining a simple and easy means of assessing pain. Next, the article will examine why nonpharmacological pain management may be a useful adjunct to pharmacological pain control. Then, a brief description of the most commonly used pain medications and a detailed description of common nonpharmacological pain-management strategies will be furnished. A discussion of how nonpharmacological pain management can be incorporated into the traditional rehabilitation process will be offered. Finally, the article will describe the role that sport psychologists can play in the management of sport injury-related pain. The objective of this article is to provide applied practitioners with the knowledge and tools necessary to assist injured athletes in mitigating the pain they will experience during recovery as a means of facilitating their rehabilitation and return to sport.
Jim Taylor is with Alpine/Taylor Consulting, P.O. Box 10205, Aspen, CO 81612. Shel Taylor is with the Sports Rehabilitation and Assessment Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030.