My story for ‘UP – Understanding Pain’
As a nurse and a physiotherapist I was frustrated by the lack of effective care for chronic conditions and pain. As a result I spent two years at Kings College London studying the neuroscience of pain under Dr Mick Thacker. CRPS is a condition that fascinates pain scientists because of the biological complexity. I was also intrigued because CRPS as an example of a terrible pain condition illuminates the rawness of life, revealing much about what it is to be human. I do not believe that you can be interested in understanding pain if you do not desire to know what it is to be human. As Oliver Sacks says, ‘it is as much about the person as the condition’, a view I wholly agree with and practice each day with patients.
Georgie came to see me last year. We worked together to empower Georgie to take control by developing her understanding of pain and CRPS, and to use skillful action to move forward. This always begins by explaining pain and the symptoms. Georgie really got stuck into the programme and we saw great changes in her thinking and how she worked to overcome her pain. Her continued levels of activity at work and home always amazed me, but clearly demonstrated that with the right know-how and hard work, it is possible to change and live a meaningful life. This does not mean that it is easy, but that it is possible. We are designed to learn and change. It is about capturing our natural ability to mould our body systems so that we can have a better and better experience, and deal with flare-ups increasingly effectively to the point where they are rare or non-existent, as Georgie now knows.
The understanding of pain and painful conditions grows week by week. There are some truly great researchers and thinkers pushing us forward. I would like to mention Dr Mick Thacker again, as well as Dr Lorimer Moseley and the late Louis Gifford, all who have hugely influenced my thinking and work. The really exciting news is that as neuroscience pushes the frontiers, now blending with philosophical thought and questioning, we are able to create the right thinking and consequent actions to harness the problem and change the state of chronic pain, the largest global health burden. I am honoured to be part of this movement and continue to passionately push the right messages as widely as possible. Everyone has the right to know. Everyone has the right to understand pain and make changes. The UP project with Georgie is the culmination of this thinking and an incredible opportunity to drive these changes across the globe.