Pain Coaching Helps Patients Achieve Goals

LAS VEGAS—Coaching can provide ongoing support to help patients achieve active-coping strategies for contending with pain and recovering or improving function.

Pain-management coach Rebecca L. Curtis, ACC, of Take Courage Coaching, stated “just as coaching has become a proven method to aid in management of other chronic conditions, pain management coaching works to help clients live well with the condition of chronic pain.”

When pain is related to particular movement, such as reaching or walking, patient avoidance and reduced activity can impede his or her recovery of function. Anxiety can also worsen pain, Curtis noted to PAINWeek 2014 attendees. Coaching can help overcome fear of movement and break down resistance and create bridges for the patient to master self-management strategies, improving adherence and outcomes, she said. Understanding pain physiology and the brain-body loop's information feedback system can help patients retain and understand information about their situation, and become more active in their coping strategies, she added.

With coaching support, passive copers can adopt active coping strategies. Active copers are patients who learn about their pain, explore ways to move, “explore and nudge the edges of pain,” while staying positive and making plans for recovery, she said. Passive copers, in contrast, avoid activity and tend to wait for their situations to improve, believing others have answers and solutions. They are “waiting for something to happen” instead of actively working to improve function and cope with pain, Curtis explained.

Encouraging active coping involves positive psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing to draw the patient into helping identify personalized solutions, she said. The coaching toolkit involves guidance and encouragement for patient participation in exercise plans, healthy sleep schedules and habits, and relaxation, she said.

The pain coach and patient “co-develop strategies, which are personalized for each individual's specific needs,” she said. “By participating in consistent weekly sessions, the client is provided with a source of support and accountability. The client begins with very small steps to increase self-efficacy, and as the self-efficacy grows so does the goal accomplishment. This allows the passive client become an active participant in the recovery process, which ultimately allows the patient to once again become an active participant in life.”

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