NHS Lothian

A different approach to managing pain

1 min read

Chronic pain can affect people in different ways. Whatever the reason for your chronic pain, the approaches for managing the pain will be similar. This is because pain management is not about getting rid of your pain; it’s about helping you have a good quality of life despite the pain.

Most people expect all pain to behave like acute pain, allowing for rest and healing before returning to normal activities. We take our symptoms to our doctor, expect them to listen, examine us, maybe order tests and come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan. And we expect this treatment plan to work. We call this the ‘medical model’.  But it doesn’t always work like that. The medical model doesn’t always fit health problems and chronic pain is one of them. So, what you might end up experiencing is more like this: you’re given a diagnosis or not and you’re provided with treatment that may or may not help. It can be frustrating and hard to find yourself searching for a diagnosis or treatment and many people can get stuck in this cycle. Pain management tries to help you understand your chronic pain and the factors involved, as we know pain impacts more than just your physical health.

Living with chronic pain can lead to poor sleep, stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed or not coping. These can all make your pain feel worse. However, by improving both your physical and mental wellbeing you may find that you’re better able to cope with your pain. The approach used in pain management is based on a ‘biopsychosocial model’. This means that the impact of pain on your biology, psychology and social life is looked at, with the aim of improving how you manage your pain in these 3 areas. It’s a bit different to the medical model but there is lots of evidence to support this approach.

You may find it useful to watch the following short video:

Understanding pain – Taming the Beast – A short video

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