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Learn More About Your Pain

Learn More About Your Pain is one of Pain Revolution’s key Target Concepts – as understanding your persistent pain is essential to changing your pain experience. Today, we have a better understanding of pain mechanisms and treatment.

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Mary O'Keefe - Communications Committee ChairPublished on 17 November 2020

Learn More About Your Pain

Learn More About Your Pain is one of Pain Revolution’s key Target Concepts – as understanding your persistent pain is essential to changing your pain experience. Today, we have a better understanding of pain mechanisms and treatment.

Six things you need to know about pain

  1. Persistent pain is generally caused by an overprotective pain system
  2. You’re more likely to succeed when you have a ‘pain coach’ supporting you and helping you stick to your plan. A ‘pain coach’ can be a clinician (doctor, nurse, or allied health professional) or peer, who has a contemporary understanding of pain (visit this website for a detailed contemporary explanation of pain)
  3. Learning about your pain can aid your journey towards recovery
  4. When you understand your pain, and have discussed it with qualified professionals, like a psychologist, it is often easier to increase your activity and exercise levels.
  5. Understanding your pain can also lead to gradual reductions in pain and disability – and may even help you make a full recovery over time
  6. Reductions in pain and disability emerge when you retrain your pain system to be less protective

Learning about pain: perspectives from individuals with a lived experience

We asked nine individuals with a lived experience of pain to comment on this target concept and what it has meant to their journey through persistent pain.

How has learning about pain impacted your pain journey?

Overall, individuals felt that learning about pain equipped them with the knowledge that pain was not a reliable measure of tissue damage, and gave them the confidence to starting re-engaging with activities that they originally thought were harmful. They felt that increased knowledge was crucial to reducing their fear of pain and giving them a sense of control.

“It helped me understand that pain is a protector and not a good indication of tissue damage. This knowledge reduced my fear and allowed me to have more confidence in approaching activities that helped me in my journey of recovery.”

“It has given me a sense of power and control back. Because I now understand why I may be feeling pain I don’t panic about it or put everything on hold until the pain stops, I learn to work with it, instead of fighting against it. I now am open to learning more about pain and also showing others contemporary information about pain. It has changed how I see my pain. Rather than seeing it as a negative force, I now chose to see my pain as my body's warning signal. I'm thankful my body works so well - sometimes a little too well, but I've learned how to temper that now.”

“It gave me confidence that I wouldn't further hurt myself, and that, to a large extent, my pain level was something I could control. I was not a helpless participant in my own pain.”

What are some ways you could have integrated learning about pain into your life?

Individuals expressed a variety of ways of integrating learning about pain into their lives. Most valued the importance of self-reflection on thoughts and feelings during pain in an ability to feel more in control.

“I question every time I’m in pain; is it the same spot? What else is happening around me which may contribute to pain? Does the pain match my understanding of pain science? Am I being over protective?” *

“I listen to pain podcasts and read books on chronic pain. I try not to think about it all of the time though, and only 'educate' myself when I am feeling in control of my life and less painful. I have had to limit my reading so as not to become obsessed with finding an easy answer. It is a fine balance between learning about pain and not allowing it to dominate my life.”

“I continue to be very active knowing that I am not damaging myself even if I pull up the next day sore. I train hard still and I have a very active physically demanding job. There was a time before I learned about pain that I thought I may have to give up my career and that would have really changed my life. Now I have learned to manage the pain without fear, worry and anxiety.”

What is some advice you would give to someone who is just starting to learn about pain?

Individuals highlighted the importance of being open-minded, curious, not being afraid to ask for help, and being patient. Some valued the use of watching videos or listening to podcasts to get interested in the topic of pain.

“Smart choice! Have an open mind to pain science. Learning about pain is fascinating.”

“Help is at hand - ask a trained physio, or allied health professional who understands the role of pain. Be patient. And the best time to start to help yourself is now.”

“Keep an open mind and don't make the wrong assumption that having a psychological trigger for the pain means that the pain is not real - because it is.”

Any other comments on this target concept ’Learn more about pain’?

Many individuals felt that learning about pain is very individual and not every medium or health professional may be suitable for all – so individuals should experiment with what they prefer. Again, individuals finished by highlighted the importance of staying patient during tough times.

“You need to find the mediums that work for the person in pain. While podcasts really worked for me I spoke to someone else who mentioned they can’t stand listening to them and can only engage with something visual. Because people learn in different ways it’s important to individualise how you respond.”

“Not all health professionals / clinicians may be appropriate pain coaches as many still focus on the physical triggers and injury.”

“Learning about pain is not a quick fix. Pain education is not a temporary change, it's lasting change. In a world where everyone demands a quick fix to problems, I see pain education as quality rather than quantity. I always buy quality.”

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Mary O'KeefeNovember 17 2020

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