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Let’s talk about pain

If you think you are isolated and alone then let me assure you there is help out there. A good start is if we all acknowledge how common chronic pain is.

Hi and welcome to my blog – I hope by reading this you can become part of the growing movement to get pain taken seriously and learn that no-one needs to suffer in silence.

I will be posting here every month on the 1st of the month and the blog is going to be called A Pain in the Mind – because as I am going to be showing that is where pain lies and that is where we can begin got deal with it.

Helping people in chronic pain

So, onto more serious matters. As you may already know, I am a consultant health psychologist working both in the NHS and in private practice. My day-to-day work brings me into contact with people in chronic pain. I work to help them and so it is not surprising that I spend a lot of my life thinking about pain and keeping up to date with the new treatments and research. I have also just finished writing a book “Sleeping with Pain” which will be out in the next month or so (watch this space for more details).

With all this going on, I am a bit of a pain obsessive, I don’t expect everyone else to be like this – that would be a very weird world! But while I don’t expect most people to be taking quite as much interest but I do, I am surprised how LITTLE pain is talked about.

It’s a pain

It almost seems there is a taboo around talking about pain. Which is odd when you think about how often we use the word in everyday speech:

  • a pain in the neck,
  • I’ll take pains to do that well,
  • on pain of death,
  • a royal pain,
  • no gain without pain,

I could go on and on . . . and on and on. . . I did warn you I can get a bit obsessive about this.

So it’s a pain this, and a pain that, but very little serious sharing of the experience of pain and what we can do about it.

I want to change this. So let’s start by some facts and figures which show you are not alone.

Chronic pain is common

The figures are startling. Researchers writing for BMJ Open earlier this year searched medical studies and found that a whopping 14 percent of UK adults are living with chronic pain which is so severe that it can be described as “disabling chronic pain”.

And less severe pain is much more common than that. They go on to say:

Chronic pain affects between one-third and one-half of the population of the UK, corresponding to just under 28 million adults, based on data from the best available published studies. This figure is likely to increase further in line with an ageing population.”

http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010364

Everyone is affected by pain

This is scary, when you think about it. If just the lower figure from the research above is right and one third of the population is directly affected by chronic pain, that means EVERYONE is suffering its consequences. At work, at home, in the family and social life there is a usually untold story of living with pain. If you don’t suffer yourself, then it is a certainty that a workmate, a friend, a partner, a parent does.

The consequences of this are enormous and not in a good way. As anyone who suffers from chronic pain knows the effects take over every area of life. It is very easy to find oneself in a vicious circle, side effects from pain relieving drugs, feeling low and out of control, passing up opportunities for fun and work and not being able to sleep

Chronic pain can cause depression, fatigue and low self-esteem. It can interfere with careers and family life, it can stop you doing what you want and enjoying yourself. All this makes the pain feel even worse. Over the next few months, I am going to show you a whole range of techniques to help you CONTROL your pain. I can’t promise it will go away completely, but I can help you do SOMETHING. And that will put you back in the driving seat.

Main techniques to lessen pain

I will be looking in detail at what we can do to control and lessen pain. The most important point I want to get across is that pain should not be seen in isolation, so, as well as following all the latest research, I will be looking at

  • Cognitive techniques
  • How to sleep
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Relaxation techniques

This month’s honourable mention: The Pain Toolkit

Whether you are suffering from pain or treat people who are I would love to hear from you. Let’s make it a mission to get pain out of the shadows. I am encouraged by the number of people I see working in this field and developing fantastic resources and support networks.

Every month I am giving a special mention to someone who is showing the way forward or to an interesting item in the news or piece of research. So this month it is Pete Moore the developer of The Pain Toolkit http://www.paintoolkit.org/

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