Earlier this year, I received some additional training about how yoga therapy can support someone experiencing pain. The umbrella topic of the training module was mental and emotional health, with three subtopics captured underneath it: pain management, anxiety and depression. Not long afterward, I heard about a book called The Pain Management Workbook recommended by one of my favorite podcasters, Dr. Zubain Dumania. This workbook is intended for individuals who are suffering from chronic pain, though I have to say that I found some gems in it for myself even as someone who doesn't currently experience chronic pain. Dr. Zoffness provides an excellent explanation of the science of pain and what can be done in light of how the pain system works. After laying down the ground work of understanding the pain system in the first chapter, she proceeds in the following chapters to offer a variety of tools that can be employed to help reduce suffering and bring about moving forward with empowerment.
Some key ideas she shares in the opening chapter:
We are biopsychosocial creatures and pain is biopsychosocial - The causes of pain are a blend of biological, psychological and sociological factors, so to treat pain effectively we must use methods from all of these domains
Your pain system is plastic - Pain is a real felt experience (it's not just all in your head); however, the more you practice pain, the stronger the pain pathways in your brain establish themselves - your brain actually develops a sensitivity to pain. You can re-train your pain system!
Picture your pain system as having a volume knob - Your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about your pain can either amplify or reduce your pain experience.
I really appreciated the variety of tools offered and how by the end of the book you are given space to create your own pain management menu and strategy. My personal favorite section was chapter 5, where she discusses the biological connection between thoughts and pain. She brings up the idea of the Pain Voice as a way to notice the habits of thought you have associated with pain. She invites you to connect instead with the Wise Voice and helps you recognize that through investigative questions toward the Pain Voice, you can help yourself be free of the cognitive distortions conjured up by the Pain Voice.
This was a fabulously designed workbook. Dr. Zoffness communicates technical information about the pain system is a way that is easy to understand and provides encouragement along with reflection exercises and practical steps forward that will help refresh and enlighten those weary from the frustrating experience of chronic pain.