It all starts with an evaluation, centered around your specific problem. Your physiotherapist needs to understand where your pain is coming from, how you manage it and how it is affecting your lifestyle. It is also important to discuss your beliefs about the causes or consequences of your pain. This way, we can incorporate pain education that is tailored to your problem. For it to be effective, it needs to be something you understand and that you find applicable.
After the initial evaluation, your physio will discuss your diagnosis, healing time and treatment plan with you. This is the start of pain education, because it is the first step towards undertanding your pain. You can think of it as a discussion, something you can actively engage in. It is supposed to be a safe space for you, where you can ask questions and talk about concerns you might have.
This discussion continues on in each treatment session and will cover different topics, like lifestyle changes, goal setting etc. Pain education happens continuously throughout your appointment, in conjunction with other treatment techniques. It might be small bits of information given throughout your session or could be an active conversation of a few minutes or longer.
Different ways of giving pain education:
- Pictures or drawings
- Examples and analogies
- Booklets that you can take home
- Apps and websites
- Workbooks with assignments
- Group information sessions
Some people respond better to visual information and others better to something they can read. Some people respond well to in-depth information about their condition, others feel overwhelmed by too much information. That is why pain education is so versatile, because it can be used in any of these situations.
Who do we need to educate?
Sometimes, it is necessary to educate people around you, to help with changes you might have to make to your lifestyle or routine. This can include your coach, your family, your friends, your trainer or people working with you. We can write a letter with recommendations, send an information leaflet or even do a group session where we include family members.
Regardless in which way you get your pain education, it should aim to improve your knowledge, help you make sense of your pain and guide you towards effective, ongoing self-management.