CWRS employs specialist occupational therapists with additional training in chronic pain management.
At least one in five Australians lives with chronic pain, and often the cause is unknown. Scientists are just now discovering the crucial role the brain plays in how pain is experienced. In addition to living with chronic pain, people often have co-existing issues with concentration, regulation of emotions and often experience mental health related conditions such as depression. Our occupational therapists focus is to assist individuals living with chronic pain to regain their quality of life by focusing on the restoration of mental health (if impacted) and the provision of neuroplastic pain management approaches.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change throughout a lifetime. With every experience, thought, movement or emotion, a neural pathway is reinforced in the brain. Repeated activation of neural pathways will strengthen pathways irrespective of whether the changes are positive or negative for the person. This is very relevant with respect to chronic pain.
There are at least sixteen regions in the brain that light up when a pain signal is processed. The pain regions in the brain are located beside other sites that process thoughts, sensory input, movement, emotions and memory. Research has shown that with prolonged exposure to pain, due to repeated activation of these neural pathways, the pain regions in the brain expand significantly in size and become more hypersensitive to pain signals. This is why people with chronic pain often experience escalating levels of pain, frequent flare ups despite seemingly minor triggers, and referred pain. The expanding pain regions also appear to hijack neighbouring brain regions and impact negatively on their functioning. This is why people with chronic pain often have difficulty with concentration, memory recall, regulating emotions, and thinking creatively.
If repeated neural activation of pain pathways strengthens the pain response, it is now understood that efforts to strengthen competing neural pathways can weaken the pain response over time. Strengthening competing neural pathways, through repetition of therapeutic activities such as visualisation, has been shown to successfully weaken chronic pain circuits and take back the hijacked parts of the brain.
The CWRS pain program can be delivered effectively in person, or via tele-health making the service accessible across Queensland. Our program is unique as it combines the experience of a specialist mental health occupational therapists with pain management, therefore providing a holistic approach to the impact on a person's function when living with chronic pain.
At the completion of a tailored program, it is hoped that an individual will achieve a positive outcome by reducing pain frequency and duration, improve function and have an enhanced quality of life.
Depending on the individual needs and complexity of the client, the OT Pain Management Program averages around 8 sessions. Program content includes:
- Education and support
Psychoeducation regarding acute versus persistent/chronic pain and the neurobiology of pain, including exploring the impact of biological, psychological and social factors on pain levels and resilience, for example:
- Biological factors – previous injury, physical illness
- Psychological factors – depression, anxiety, stress levels, grief and adjustment
- Social factors – support networks, financial or housing stress, relationship conflict
- Neuroplastic interventions
Strengthening competing neural pathways aimed at reducing neural hypersensitivity and improve functioning, using techniques such as sensory input, visual imagery and mindfulness.
- Sensory modulation techniques
Tailored sensory input (including touch, movement, smell and sound) to compete with the pain neural pathways and help change how a person feels by improving mood, stress levels and functioning.
- Stress management techniques
Strategies including assisted problem solving, breathing exercises, relaxation and gentle, paced movement to assist a person to better manage day to day stress levels and improve resilience.
- Movement/graded exercise and activity engagement
- Education regarding the importance of steady, graded and paced movement
- Strategies to support and promote regular
movement in daily routines