Chronic Pain

Learning about pain management

Many people that we talked to found that part of living with chronic pain was learning techniques of controlling pain and reducing the impact that it had on their life. These techniques include exercise, pacing daily activities, setting short and long term goals, relaxation, distraction and communication (see also 'Pain management' pacing and goal setting', 'Pain management' relaxation and distraction').

Learning about pain management also often involved finding out about what happens in the body when people experience chronic pain and understanding how what we think and feel can affect the pain (see also 'What is chronic pain?).

Whilst some people had learnt to manage their pain themselves many accessed some form of training. Sources of training included NHS Pain Management Programmes, nurse-led pain management, support groups, Self-management UK (formerly the Expert Patient Programme), self-help books and on-line programmes (such as the Paintoolkit- see resources section) accessed via the internet.

Often, people we spoke to were very sceptical about pain management partly because it was seen as the end of the line for medical treatment but also because NHS-based pain management often involved psychology and people were concerned that their doctor thought that the pain was in their head.

Despite this many found that learning and putting into practice pain management was a turning point in their lives where they began to accept and live with their pain (see also 'Coming to terms with pain').

People who were involved in a group Pain Management Programme were often comforted to find other people with pain who had similar experiences and found that they benefited from the mutual support and understanding.

Several people had been referred by their GP or consultant to a NHS based Pain Management Programme (see also 'NHS pain management programmes'). The British Pain Society’s publishes a helpful leaflet called ‘Participant Information for Pain Management Programmes (2013)’.

A few people that we talked to had one-to-one help with pain management from a nurse or psychologist. One woman described how her psychologist helped her understand how chronic pain was made worse when she was stressed and taught her breathing and pacing.

Another woman had attended a nurse-led pain service where she had been given help to identify everyday activities that exacerbated her pain and advice on how she could alter these activities. A few people had been on a course with Self-Management UK (available in England and Wales), which are designed to help people with chronic illness to develop self-management skills.

One woman had learnt about pain management from a support group. She had also read several self-help books, which she had found extremely helpful. Some had received tapes or information from NHS Pain Management Programmes even though they had not attended a programme.

In Scotland, some people had been on a 'Living with Pain' course run by the support group 'Pain Association Scotland'.

The effects of pain management on people's lives can be dramatic. Having learnt skills on an NHS Pain Management Programme some wished they had had access earlier and went on to develop and lead self-management programmes themselves.

One man had set up a programme and a woman had produced an exercise video for people with back pain and another man had written a book about coping with chronic pain.

Last reviewed May 2015.

Last updated May 2015.

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