What is a Pain Coach? And how can they help me with my persistent pain?
Simply said, a pain coach is someone who helps you make sense of your pain and helps you to create a plan to work towards meaningful goals. These two things, having meaningful goals and a plan, will help you make the changes in your life that you are struggling to make. When we are working with persistent pain, we are working with the you, all of you, the whole person. This includes mind, body and environment as they operate as a unit. This requires us to look at the interconnectedness of thoughts, feelings, emotions, movements, and activities, the world around us and how we relate to that world.
Who can see a Pain Coach?
A pain coach can help with any kind of pain that is persistent, which is pain has lasted beyond three months. A pain coach will not give you a diagnosis, as this is not legally allowed. So it is good to already have a diagnosis or a good understanding of what your condition is before you work with a pain coach. If you are still looking for a diagnosis, a quick fix, or a cure, then a pain coach is not the right choice for you at this time. A pain coach might be the right choice for you if you are struggling to participate in your life or a struggling to make sense of your pain. A pain coach is a good choice if you have had failed physiotherapy treatments or other failed treatments.
A pain coach is someone who helps you make sense of your pain and helps you to create a plan to work towards meaningful goals.
A pain coach can have a variety of approaches and skills, much like you can imagine with a baseball coach or a singing coach. All coaches have different personalities, histories, experience, and education. Therefore when looking for a pain coach, keep in mind, that not every coach may be the right coach for you. It’s important for you to do some research and try to connect with that person before you work with them to see if they are a good fit for you.
At the base however, a pain coach should be well-versed in the science, literature, and current understanding of the phenomenon of pain. Like a baseball coach, they will understand the “game” and that there are different strategies and tactics to employ depending on the goals and the individual players. A coach will help you build up a fundamental understanding of pain and how that relates to you and your situation. They will also help you to build self-confidence when it comes to completing tasks and participating in activities that are meaningful to you.
You can look at a pain coach, like a guide or mentor on your pain journey. They will be there to help you practice living well with pain and help you increase your resilience in the difficulties of making choices and staying committed to living the life you want.
4 Key Elements of Pain Coaching
Helping you make sense of your pain
A very frustrating part of having pain for a long time can be the constant struggle of trying to understand and control your pain. This leads many people down the road of seeing multiple health care providers trying to find the one who has the cure. This can l
ook like multiple scans, injections, and surgeries. But also, like trying all different kinds of conservative interventions, like physio, chiro, and osteo, personal trainers, dieticians etc.., with little or no success. And at the end of the day leaving you with this sense of failure and dissatisfaction, and in some cases even making your pain worse.
Although I may not be able to tell you that your pain has one source and that I know how to fix it, my job is to help you put the bigger picture together and to make sense of it by zooming in and out as needed. The point of this is to see how pain fits into your life as a whole, to put context behind the pain instead of treating it as an isolated thing existing solely in a structure somewhere in your body. The point is to zoom in on things that we think will help, implement them, then zoom out again to see what else could be useful, then in again, and so on and so forth. This a process. Processes takes time. The journey of sense making can be very difficult and uncomfortable at times, but without context and questioning we cannot understand. And through this process we work together to help you understand how pain functions in your life and how to reorient it’s place in your life, so that it’s no longer the star of the show and so that you can move forward.
Guiding you to make meaningful goals
Often, it can feel difficult or even foreign to set goals when you live with persistent pain and there are many reasons for this. It may be because you feel that your life is unpredictable, so you’re unsure what you will be able to handle tomorrow or the next day, and therefore setting goals seems futile. Maybe you’ve set goals in the past and they haven’t worked for you and in the end left you with a feeling a failure and more frustration. Perhaps, they haven’t made your pain go away so you’ve wondered what the point is. Or, maybe you have been living with pain for so long that you feel utterly disconnected with with what brings you joy, so even the idea of that c
an be confronting and uncomfortable, so you’d rather just not think about it. This is actually very normal and many people living with pain will experiencing one or all of the above reasons. If this is you, please don’t feel ashamed about this. Use this realisation to start thinking about ways in which these past experiences are affecting your life today. When you think about it try to stay curious and open to what you are noticing. Do your best not to place judgement on it.
Pain coaching focuses on setting goals based on valued activities or things that give you joy or pleasure. The focus is not on making the pain go away. Although that may seem counter-intuitive, it’s not. Using all your energy (which is usually at this point not very much) to focus on a goal of trying to control something that we realistically cannot fully control, is not the best use of our energy. As you know if you live with persistent pain, energy management and conservation is a very important to your daily life. Learning how to manage our energy in a way that makes sense to our lives helps us to persevere and recover as much as possible. Research shows that it is better to spend time focusing on using your energy to cultivate a life that brings you more joy, pleasure, and overall life satisfaction instead of on trying to change pain. We focus on changing your relationship with pain and at the very least level the balance between joy and suffering.
Motivation & Accountability
A pain coach is there to help you manage the waves of moving through a difficult process. A coach has the big picture in mind and can hold that vision for you in times when you are struggling to hold onto it yourself. This is probably the most important part of having any coach, especially a pain coach. Anytime you want to make difficult changes in your life there is no getting around that it’s going to be hard. It’s easy to be motivated when you start something new, but that motivation will inevitably die down. This is normal and happens to everyone. Having a strong why or connection to the process, is extremely helpful to keep you committed, which is why that is a main focus of the therapy. It doesn't make sense to works towards things that you do not care about, if that is the case you are more than likely to give up, and rightly so, since it will not be worth it to you.
A coach will help you determine what the process is and what it might look like, by keeping what is meaningful to you as the forefront and always thinking about how to make moves towards that. A coach will help you become more aware of the obstacles that might be getting in the way of you reaching your goals and figuring out how to work with that resistance that will inevitably pop-up. A coach will keep you accountable to your desires while helping your realistically manage the process.
Motivation and accountability kind of go together because when you are paying for appointments or have something scheduled you are more likely to stick with the process, do what you have agreed to do, and stay on track. A coach will help you stick to the plan, motivate you to keep going, and simultaneously honour your process.
Pain coaching is process-based. What does that mean? Process-based means that we are focusing less on the outcome, but spending our energy trying to understand and implement the processes that impact getting there. Of course we are guided by our goals and want to reach them, but in process-based therapy we are more focused on targeting the obstacles that are getting in the way. Without addressing what is getting in the way, we can’t actually take the necessary steps to move ourselves in the direction we want to go. That being said, this is not and easy process and it will not always feel like your are making progress. Being open and vulnerable to learning more about how you function and why you may not be living your life the way you want to right now can be difficult and requires times to accept. Process-based therapy understands that things do not always progress in a straight line and understands that even if it feels at times like going backwards, that’s not a failure, it’s just a part of learning. It’s a therapy focused on helping you build the emotional and physical skills to self-manage and live an empowered life.
Finding a Pain Coach
If you think a pain coach might be right for you please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I'm here to answer your questions and see if we are a good match.
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