I’ve learnt, over my many years of training, that pain is a very complex and intriguing thing.
I still recall the lecture I attended as an undergraduate physiotherapy student that was designed to help us understand about pain. It was a video of William Wallace (Mel Gibson) being hung, drawn and quartered in the film ‘Braveheart’, which I think was to demonstrate that pain is a very individual experience.
I hadn’t thought that pain could be experienced differently in different people before that moment.
Sure enough, on qualifying and working as a physiotherapist, I noticed that some people responded to a certain type of treatment while others did not, despite having the same medical diagnosis and symptoms.
My quest to find out and understand the mechanisms of pain in more detail began.
Thirteen years ago, I completed two MSc modules about the science behind pain, which have helped me understand how the experience of pain can be generated in our peripheral and central nervous systems. They also confirmed to me just how complex the process of pain can be. While both were relevant and interesting, they still didn’t, however, answer all my questions…
When working with people in persistent pain, I’ve noticed that fear and anxiety about their condition, as well as many other emotions, often come into play. These can then negatively affect these people’s lives.
While fear and anxiety are understandable and entirely normal when suffering with pain, I’ve learned that how people respond to these emotions and feelings can play a huge role in experiencing pain.
My conclusion? Trying to understand not only the physical root of a person’s pain, but also the psychology behind their resulting behaviour, must be key to helping banish their suffering.
This has led me to attend many psychology-related courses and read lots of literature about behaviour and behaviour change over the last few years.
The knowledge that I’ve gained has been inspiring and has made a huge difference in helping my patients move away from their pain.