For many of us, experiencing pain (and putting up with it!) has been part of our ‘lock-down’ experience. Whether that’s putting up with sore muscles after our training sessions because we can’t access our usual sports massage clinic, or tolerating a dodgy toothache due to dental surgery closures. And for some of us, chronic pain has been a feature of our lives for much longer (1).
A lot pain management techniques revolve around face-to-face contact with a therapy practitioner or medical professional. However, many services can now be provided online in some form or other. It isn’t necessarily ideal but it’s certainly offering us an alternative to nothing, and in some cases it’s providing us with something better…For many of, experiencing pain (and putting up with it!) has been part of our ‘lock-down’ experience. Whether that’s putting up with sore muscles after our training sessions because we can’t access our usual sports massage clinic, or tolerating a dodgy toothache due to dental surgery closures. And for some of us, chronic pain has been a feature of our lives for much longer (1). A lot pain management techniques revolve around face-to-face contact with a therapy practitioner or medical professional. However, many services can now be provided online in some form or other. It isn’t necessarily ideal but it’s certainly offering us an alternative to nothing, and in some cases it’s providing us with something better…
It is hard to deny that there has been a rapid improvement in the availability and number of resources for addressing health-related and medical issues, including pain. But just because there is more choices doesn’t necessarily guarantee that all these options are high in quality. Online therapy is completely different to in-person treatments. But, if you’ve been holding off from dealing with a niggling pain until close contact services like massage and physiotherapy are back in action, then maybe I can persuade you to try something different while you wait.
In the medical and health industries there has been a shift in thinking – rather than focusing solely on physical causes (such as injury) for pain, we are trying to look a wider range of factors that might influence their pain. If you’ve visited me in the clinic, you might have wondered why I’ve asked you about your stress levels, or your diet or drinking habits, how much sleep you’ve been getting, and how many hours you work. This is because there is increasing evidence to link our experience of pain to our overall mental and physical health. The questions I ask are all guided by a theoretical model called the ‘Biopsychosocial Model‘. You may have noticed yourself that your pain might change depending on your work stress, or family life changes. It’s no coincidence. There are many factors in our lives that can influence the neurological, psychological and social components that all contribute to our individual experience of pain. In fact, five of the highest risk factors for pain are modifiable lifestyle factors: nutrition, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption and Vitamin D from sunshine exposure (2). There are so many factors affecting pain that we have a fair amount of choice in what we choose to adjust – we don’t have to commit to changing all of them at once to see some return on investment.
Now, I’m not going to get into a lot of detail here about the scientific details of the Biopsychosocial Model – that’s a topic for a separate blog post. However, if you know me, then you will know that I am a ‘stickler for detail’, a ‘sucker for the scientific’, and an ‘enthusiast’ for evidence. So, I’ve taken some of the leg work out of the hunt for useful online pain management resources for you – here are my top three…
The Curable app has many useful features, including an AI chat bot to help you find new ways to deal with bouts of acute pain, and a tailored pain management plan. It is a great app, available both with free and extended paid versions. If you want a guided and intuitive pain management experience, then this is an excellend option. it seems like they’ve thought of everything. I’ve been using this app for only a short time to manage my own hip pain, and I am very impressed by what I’ve seen in this short time.
Here is how they describe it in their own words:
The Curable app provides evidence-based chronic pain lessons in your pocket. It uses a combination of pain science education and research-backed techniques to address pain from every angle. The program helps you connect the dots between what’s happening in your brain, in your body, and in your life, to get a full picture of what’s causing your symptoms and how to relieve them.
Free and paid versions of the app are available for all operating platforms. Find out more at the website: https://www.curablehealth.com
Okay – so maybe this one is not directly intended for pain management (at least on first sight). But mental health and pain have been shown to be closely linked – in particular, emotional regulation (3). Meditation has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health (4). Headspace is a meditation app that provides users with a huge library of guided meditations and other tools to manage stress. If you get the paid version of the app, you can also access meditation exercises specifically to address pain too. I have been using this app myself for some years now, and I can’t recommend it enough for pain and stress management.
Here is how they describe it in their own words:
There are over 2,000 meditation apps out there, but Headspace is one of the only ones committed to advancing the field of mindfulness meditation through clinically-validated research on our product. We are currently in progress on research studies with large national institutions that could be among the largest mindfulness meditation trials ever conducted. We are committed to ensuring Headspace can actually make an impact in our lives.
Free and paid versions of the app are available for all operating platforms. Find out more at the website: https://www.headspace.com/
‘Pathway through Pain’ is a self-paced digital pain management programme grounded in evidence and supported by a number of local NHS Health Trusts – for some patients you may be able to access the app for free (see link below). It uses a range of educational and practical guides to help you to make long term changes to your pain experience.
In their own words, the ‘Pathway through Pain’ programme helps you to:
Pathway through Pain is the original and only online intensive Pain Management Programme (PMP). It helps empower you with control over pain so you can move forward with your life. Accessible and motivating, our supportive NHS-approved course is clinically proven and has helped enable thousands of people on the path to better management of their chronic/persistent musculoskeletal pain.
Free and paid versions of the resource are available. Find out more at the website: https://www.pathwaythroughpain.com/ or the NHS website for subsided rates eligibility: https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/pathway-through-pain/
I hope that this provides you with a starting point to learn more about these online resources!
Please feel welcome to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below to ask any questions!
- Fayaz, A., Croft, P., Langford, R.M., Donaldson, L.J. and Jones, G.T., 2016. Prevalence of chronic pain in the UK: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population studies. BMJ Open, 6(6), p.e010364.
- Mills, S.E., Nicolson, K.P. and Smith, B.H., 2019. Chronic pain: a review of its epidemiology and associated factors in population-based studies. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 123(2), pp.e273-e283.
- Koechlin, H., Coakley, R., Schechter, N., Werner, C. and Kossowsky, J., 2018. The role of emotion regulation in chronic pain: A systematic literature review. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 107, pp.38-45.
- Ball, E.F., Nur Shafina Muhammad Sharizan, E., Franklin, G. and Rogozińska, E., 2017. Does mindfulness meditation improve chronic pain? A systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 29(6), pp.359-366