Understanding and managing pain

One in five Australians live with persistent pain, but less than 10 per cent get the help they need.  

Understanding your pain can be complex and difficult, especially if it didn’t occur from a specific event or injury. To help our members learn about what pain is and to understand a little more about it, GMHBA has partnered with Pain Revolution, a movement to change how people in rural and regional Australia understand pain.

What is Pain Revolution?

Led by the University of South Australia's Professor Lorimer Moseley, Pain Revolution is on a mission to get the science of pain out of the research lab, and into the community. Pain Revolution's vision is that all Australians will have access to the knowledge, skills and local support to prevent and overcome persistent pain.

Through the Local Pain Educator Program, they aim to create lasting positive change for people in pain in rural and regional Australia through a network of upskilled health professionals that are active in their community.

Understanding pain

It a commonly held belief that if we have pain, we’ve inevitably got some sort of tissue damage. This is sometimes the case, whether it be a broken bone or a sprained ligament. In these cases, management will often involve protecting and resting the injured body part until it recovers.

However, there are many cases of pain that are not linked to a specific incident. What’s more, some pain that is linked to a specific incident or injury will last long after the physical damage has healed.

So, in the cases where tissue damage isn’t necessarily present, what’s really going on with pain? Pain science is discovering that pain is an extremely complex, personal protective device.

Causes of pain

The feeling of pain can emerge when a person feels under threat in some way, and even subconsciously, feels the need for protection. There are factors from every aspect of our lives, beyond tissue damage or injury, that may feed this need for protection. These include:

  • Our beliefs about what it is that’s causing our pain
  • Being fearful due to pain
  • Thinking our pain will get worse and we won’t recover
  • The information we have been given about our pain, our previous experiences of pain or others’ pain
  • Our overall health including our mood, anxiety and stress levels, sleep and tiredness
  • The way our nervous systems and immune systems work, and even our genes.

Tackling pain

Understanding the multi-layered nature of pain is crucial to better understanding how to tackle it. If we understand the protective nature of pain, we can then take steps to reduce the body’s need to protect itself. The steps will vary from person to person, since the contributing factors are always unique.

When speaking to your health care professional about persistent pain you might be experiencing, these are the three questions you can ask:

  1. How do I know my pain system is being overprotective?
  2. What can I do to retrain my pain system to be less protective?
  3. Am I safe to move, even if it hurts?

For more information