Pain is the most common reason for people to seek healthcare, a leading cause of disability and a source of distress for a growing number of people.1
How can professionals involved in mental health and physical health help people living with pain to recover?
The first step in helping people to reduce pain, improve quality of life and recover function is to increase our understanding of pain. The knowledge and beliefs that healthcare professionals hold about pain profoundly influence the approach to diagnosis, treatment and self-management of pain, with far-reaching impacts on patient outcomes.
Most of us tend to believe that if something hurts, there is something damaged in our body. Many of us have even learned in our professional training that pain intensity corresponds to the degree of injury, or that pain with no identifiable cause is “psychogenic.”
It’s true that injury can lead to pain, of course, but it’s not quite so simple. We now know that signals from our body communicating damage or potential damage can lead to an experience of pain, but human beings can also experience pain without any tissue damage. The flip side of this is that we can have tissue damage – from an injury, surgery or system dysfunction, for example – and not feel any pain. Understanding why this happens is essential to helping patients along their path to recovery.
Pain education informs us of the myriad ways pain is influenced by multiple factors – so much more than just the body.3 The biopsychosocial approach provides us with a model for shifting away from a purely biomedical perspective that encourages a “broken part” mentality, potentially over-protective behavior and disability, toward patient-centered care dealing with the multiple factors that impact pain.2
Pain is an experience of the whole person, and dealing with pain requires that we address the whole person, including both physical and psychological aspects. As health care practitioners, we can adapt our approach to pain management to address the individual as a psychophysical whole and align treatment with modern pain science. In doing so we can avoid hindering patients in their recovery and aid them in their journey of management and recovery.
The Introduction to Pain seminar for healthcare professionals will introduce you to a modern pain science perspective with an accessible approach that will enable you to identify factors that contribute to pain and that you can address. This seminar or a contemporary understanding of pain is the prerequisite for the Why Pain Persists course, in which you’ll learn more about how pain becomes entrenched and what to do about it. You’ll enhance your ability to help patients deal with, manage and recover from pain by deepening your understanding of the multidimensional experience that is pain. Updating your knowledge about pain science will help you to help your patients help themselves by increasing their autonomy, their ability to self-manage and their quality of life.
Sign up for Why Pain Persists here.
1 Treede, R. D., Rief, W., Barke, A., Aziz, Q., Bennett, M. I., Benoliel, R., . . . Wang, S. J. (2019). Chronic pain as a symptom or a disease: the IASP Classification of Chronic Pain for the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Pain, 160(1), 19-27. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001384
2 Caneiro, J. P., Bunzli, S., & O’Sullivan, P. (2021). Beliefs about the body and pain: the critical role in musculoskeletal pain management. Braz J Phys Ther, 25(1), 17-29. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2020.06.003
3 Raja, S., Carr, D., Cohen, M., Finnerup, N., Flor, H., Gibson, S., . . . Vader, K. (2020). The revised International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain: concepts, challenges, and compromises. Pain, 161(9), 1976-1982. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001939