When you join our support group we recommend you take a chronic pain self management program (CPSMP). We think these courses help you understand what is happening in your body, why you are feeling pain and how you can be an active manager of your pain experience. These courses provide simple tools that you can use everyday, but do you?
Self Management Programs
In British Columbia, there are many free self management courses available to those who can leave their homes and to those who are more house-bound. The University Of Victoria Centre on Aging offers free courses throughout the province, as well as an online course (http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca/SelfManagement). The Arthritis Society of BC also offers a self management class that is similar to the UVic program (http://www.arthritis.ca/asmp). If you are referred to a chronic pain clinic at a hospital, you will likely be asked to take their specific program. You can also take an online webinar series that is offered by PainBC (http://www.painbc.ca/sessions/empowering-self-management-pain-part-i-explaining-pain).
All of these programs offer an explanation of the current thinking on how chronic and acute pain work, some in more detail than others. These programs also discuss the various tools that you can use that may help you either reduce the pain you have or the suffering you feel. Some of these tools include:
- therapeutic exercises to strengthen your body
- sleeping techniques to improve your energy level
- relaxation and meditation to calm your mind and your body
- pacing and planning to avoid over exertion
- cognitive behaviour therapy and emotional management techniques to help you with depression, anxiety and fear
- communication techniques to help you talk and listen to your family, friends and health professionals
- medication and non-drug therapies such as massage, heat and cold and topical creams to ease your pain
- goal setting and action plans to help you accomplish what you want, while remaining realistic about what you can do
Early studies of the effect of CPSMPs have shown that participants experience less pain, improved mental health, increased level of daily activity, enhanced quality of life, greater confidence in their abilities and increased power to act compared with waiting list patients. Many of these participants have been in pain for a long time and have been waiting for a solution, whether that be surgery or a magical pill. A CPSMP should help somewhat, if only to provide solidarity with others in the same situation.
Recent studies have looked at physical results when comparing CPSMPs with other therapies such as directed exercise programs or cognitive behaviour therapies. In these cases, CPSMPs do not show a significant difference in improvement. In the long term, what is the best solution for people in chronic pain? A self management program or an individualized therapy program? Or both? Does it make a difference if you have been in pain a long time or a short time? Do people use self management tools years after taking a self management program?
How Useful has CPSMP been to You?
How do you use self management tools? Do you wait until you have a flare up, use them for a while and then let them drop when life gets a bit better? Do you use them everyday? What works for you?
The support group responded with the following:
Everybody had attended a CPSMP. The earliest was 2001 and the most recent was last year. Everyone said that they found the program to be useful at the time. However, one participant felt the program was offered too late to help her. She found more help elsewhere. A common opinion is that a CPSMP should be offered as soon as possible.
What Tools Do The Group Use
Self management includes tracking your pain, setting your goals, trying different pain management strategies and monitoring your progress. Self management allows you to take control of your life and let’s you have a life. You can become an active participant in your pain experience instead of a reactive one.
This support group was created because we understand that dealing with chronic pain is very difficult and it helps to be with others who understand what you are going through. At our meetings, we can pat each other on the back when you do well and encourage you when you struggle. Our support group and your self management tools are a reminder that you can do this.
http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/773713 Low back Pain Study
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/13/66 Study comparing self management vs tailored physical activity