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For people living with pain, finding straightforward information about how to self-manage symptoms can be challenging.
Changing Your Pain Pathways: Ways to cope with pain in daily life, an evidence-based book developed by experienced clinicians in chronic pain management at Toronto Rehab, in collaboration with patients, whose voices, ideas, and experiences are captured throughout the pages.
The purpose of the book is to help readers feel more in control of their pain and live a better quality of life.
"Changing Your Pain Pathways helped me break through a plateau in my ongoing recovery from chronic headaches," says Samantha H, a chronic pain sufferer.
"By applying the practical pain-management strategies, I was able to reduce pain levels, increase physical activity, establish a personalized sleep routine, acknowledge difficult emotions, and communicate more effectively with others."
Designed for individuals with physical or cognitive impairments
What makes this book special is its focus on persistent, neuropathic and neurological pain associated with conditions such as brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis (MS) and stroke.
"In reviewing available pain management resources, we noticed a gap in information that would be relevant and user-friendly for our particular neurological populations," says occupational therapist Cara Kircher, a co-author.
"Changing Your Pain Pathways was written and designed for individuals who have cognitive or physical impairments that may not allow them to fully benefit from other resources.
"We created each chapter, worksheet and exercise so people with physical or cognitive impairments would be able to follow and apply a variety of pain self-management strategies to their daily lives."
The self-management strategies identified in this book are the tried and true go-tos for healthcare providers and participants of Toronto Rehab's LEAP (Living Engaged and Actively with Pain) Service, which offers a nine-week pain self-management education course.
Now, anyone, anywhere can access the same knowledge.
Here are three strategies you'll find in the book:
Chapter 2: Doing What Matters
Pacing is a good way to keep active while respecting your limits. Pacing means finding out how long you can spend doing a task before the pain increases, then stopping before that point. Once you find this balance, you can very gradually build up the active time, if you wish to.
"I used to try to do all my household chores in the morning, while I had energy, then I'd crash and rest all afternoon. Once I gave myself permission to take short breaks and spread out my chores throughout the day, I noticed a change in what I got done and how I felt." – LEAP participant
Chapter 4: Movement and Physical Activity
When you visualize doing a movement without pain, you can break the associations with pain and set up new neural pathways in the brain.
Visualizing can also come in handy on the days when the slightest movement is too painful; you can still exercise the brain circuits in charge of doing movements, without straining the body.
If you are interested in trying this technique, you could start by looking at videos of movements you'd like to do, or by closely watching others performing these movements. Once you have a clear picture of the movements, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself moving through them.
Chapter 5: All About Sleep
Pain is designed to keep you alert for danger, while sleep requires a feeling of safety and relaxation. It can be very hard to get the right amount and type of sleep when you are living with pain.
Tip: Match your time spent in bed with how many hours you are actually sleeping. For example, if you are only sleeping four hours and waking up at 7:00am, then go to bed at 3:00am for a few nights to build your sleep drive, then slowly start to push your bedtime earlier until you are getting the desired amount of sleep.
Changing Your Pain Pathways: Ways to cope with pain in daily life is available for purchase through