Pain Education ~ A Tool for Getting on the Same Team
You might know a lot about chronic pain but does your child? Like the nuts and bolts of why chronic pain happens?
It was very important for Greta and I to both learn about chronic pain so that we could be on the same team trying to manage it, rather than at odds with one another. Without knowing the mechanisms of chronic pain, it is hard to be motivated to even want to manage your pain ~ you would rather just stay in bed!
Meeting with a pain specialist who had the time to really explain pain was the turning point for us. Knowing how chronic pain was different helped us to understand why nothing we tried ever worked. All our medicines and treatments were aimed at Greta’s migraines. But the problem was her pain syndrome. Her nervous system was on high alert and her brain was interpreting any minor threat as pain. And this is what is often underlies the problem of chronic pain.
It took us 4 years for a doctor to finally take the time to explain it to us this way. Maybe other doctors along the way knew but didn’t have the time, I don’t know. But we were sure thankful for this doctor. We learned we needed to turn the volume down on those pain messages and the way to do it was to start participating in life more and show her nervous system that life was safe. Her brain didn't need to always protect her with pain.
But I don’t think we could have made any progress if Greta and I weren’t both at that appointment that day. We both needed that understanding in order to be convinced that it was worth putting our effort in to becoming more functional. And it took A LOT of effort.
I think that the biggest reason why Greta has had success in becoming more functional with pain is that she knows what is going on. She knows that she needs to reassure her brain that life is okay, it is not dangerous. She needs to keep pushing herself little by little. But she also needs to pace herself so her nervous system doesn’t get overwhelmed.
It makes sense to her. And to me. And that is why we can continue to work towards it. If you are having trouble getting on the same team as your child, it might help to focus on pain education. Watch the same videos. Talk about it. Have your doctor explain it to you both. Or find a pain specialist who can explain the mechanisms of chronic pain and why the pain is persisting. Better yet, have your whole family in on the education! It is helpful when siblings also understand why your child might seem fine and then need to opt out of activities (nervous system overload). It might be helpful for extended families to learn this too.
p.s. I realize that our kids all have pain for different reasons and your case might not be one of straightforward chronic pain. However, there might be an element of this (however big or small) for all of our kids.
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