Self-Management of Pain

Self-Management of Pain, by Pete Moore, creator of the ‘Pain Toolkit’

The European Pain Federation works with a number of patient organisations, such as Pain Alliance Europe, as well as individual patient advocates. The information below comes from Pete Moore, a patient advocate from the UK, who we have invited to provide some insights on self-management of pain.

 

Introduction

Thanks for stopping by this section of the European Pain Federation website. My name is Pete Moore and I was asked to develop this section because I live with pain myself, but I have learnt how to self-manage it after attending a pain management programme in 1996.

Since then I have had no need to see a doctor about my pain and since 1997 I have not had the need to take any pain medication.

For me, and many others, learning how to manage our pain is like learning a new skill, like learning to drive a car or learning a new language. It can take time and patience.

 

Three questions I would like to ask you:

  1. Do you do more on good days and less on bad ones?
  2. Are you an overachiever, doing more than you have to?
  3. Are you a people pleaser and find it hard to say no to others who ask you to do things?

How many did you say yes to? Most people will say yes to at least two. If you did say yes to two or three, this section of the European Pain Federation website is just right for you, please read on to learn some simple information about pain and how to manage it.

 

So, what is chronic or persistent pain?

Healthcare professionals across the European Union are now using both, so it can be confusing. Many patients prefer the term persistent. Before we move on, it is important to understand what chronic or persistent pain is.

Persistent pain (also called chronic or long-term pain) is pain that continues for 3 months or more and may not respond to usual medical treatment. It can be disabling and frustrating for many people to manage. It can also affect relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.

It is also a big problem in Europe. The Pain Alliance Europe estimates that there are 70,140,000 people living with pain within the European Union.

Sometimes people with persistent pain are told by their healthcare team after assessment: “I am afraid you have a chronic or long-term pain problem "You will have to learn to live with it.”

To date, their healthcare team may have
done all that they can to help them. They may have used many of the tools available in their toolkit. However there are so many things that you can do to help self-manage your pain with the support of your healthcare team, family and friends and work colleagues. All you need is to be willing to ask for help.

There are many types of pain. Here is a link for the different types of pain from another section of the EFIC site.

 

Why do I need to manage my pain? After all, I see my healthcare professional and aren’t they supposed to do that for me?

Many people with persistent pain see their health care professional for treatment, help and support. But have you actually estimated just how many hours during the course of a year you spend with your healthcare professional?

It has been said that people with health conditions (including pain) may spend less than 3 hours a year on average in contact with a healthcare professional. For the remaining 8,733 hours of the year they are on their own. So the need to learn pain self- management skills and incorporate them in their everyday activities is very important. So as you can see, the need to become more involved in your own pain self-management is both necessary and important. It is certainly not only the responsibility of your doctor or healthcare professional to manage your pain.

You have to play a vital part as well - it is all about teamwork.

 

Do you feel like you are struggling to manage your pain?

Do not worry you are not on your own. It can feel like we are going around in circles.

Coping isn’t really that helpful, as you’re just getting by. Self-managing your pain means you are taking action. See video for more information.

 

Understanding Pain in less than five minutes

For many people understanding pain and what to do about it can be hard to understand, but more importantly so can knowing what to do about it.

Check out this video called Understanding Pain in less than five minutes

This video has been the one of the most important explanations for both people with pain as well as healthcare professionals.

This video has also been translated into the following languages:

 

The Pain Cycle

Many people with pain can get trapped in a pain cycle. Please do not worry as it is common. I did. Learning to self-manage your pain will help you break out this cycle.

 

Can persistent or chronic pain be managed?

Yes it can be and you can get your confidence and life back on track, I guess I am and many others are living proof that pain can be managed, but as I always tell people, managing pain is like learning a new skill, just like learning a new language or driving a car. It can take time and more importantly it take effort.

 

Let us look at little further into pain self-management

This section deals with pain self-management. For many people self-manage is a new phrase. To help you understand what it means, click here to see a short video.

I believe we need to have a set of simple skills or tools to help us manage our pain. Just relying on medication or another treatment to manage our pain isn’t enough. We need to take action ourselves.

Some years ago I developed a simple website called the Pain Toolkit. I discovered that for me and others to self-manage pain we needed some tools. I came up with the idea of having a Toolkit of 12 simple tools. Here is the link and see what you think.

 

What are the key pain self-management skills?

 Self-management can cover a lot of things to many people. There are three main skills to learn to manage our pain and there are:

  1. Goal setting / Action planning
  2. Problem solving
  3. Knowing what to do if something goes wrong

 

Setting goals and action plan help us move forward. I remember

reading some years ago this quote…”If you do not know where you are going, it is unlikely, you will get there”.

Everyone gets problems in life, but it seems everyday problems to people with pain can get amplified, so it’s useful to know what to do when things do not go according to plan.

  • Knowing what to do if something goes wrong (have a setback plan)

Because we are overachievers by trying to keep up with others or just overdoing things, we need to have a setback plan to help us get back on track.

 

Let’s get active

Stretching and exercise can help you manage your pain. Back in my pain days I used to think that getting active, stretching and exercising would make my pain worse. I was wrong. I learnt on the pain management programme, that regular stretching and exercising could actually decrease my pain.

“If Exercise was a pill… we would be taking one pill to treat four or five different health conditions.”

Getting active and regular stretching needs to become a habit to manage pain. But before you start, it is always best to do the right stretching and exercises to suit your pain condition, so please see a Physiotherapist who can show you the right ones for you.

 

Getting the best from your GP or Hospital Consultant appointment

When we see our GP or Hospital Consultant, it can be stressful.

  • What will they be like?
  • Will I be rushed?
  • What if I miss something they said?

Here is a short video with provides you with some simple tips when seeing your GP or Hospital Consultant.

 

Using the Internet

Type in pain to a search engine and around 810,800,000 results will come up.

Most of these website will try and sell you something etc.

Always discuss with your doctor or healthcare professional if you are going to try something. Remember, ‘successful’ pain self-management is teamwork.

What support is available to you in your own country?

Pain Alliance Europe has 34 members in 17 European Countries.

Visit the link and see what help and support your local organisation can offer you.

What have we missed out?

Let the European Pain Federation secretary@efic.org or Pete Moore know what other information you would like to see included on this section of the site.