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What works versus what fits

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Dr. Bronnie Thompson, a New Zealand occupational therapist, on Todd Hargrove’s new podcast, talking about how chronic pain patients are often prescribed self-care regimens that are at odds with their values, with what they value in life:

“I fear that people with pain are being told to live somebody else’s life, which consists of going to the gym and doing lots of meditation. That might not be that person’s life. And it might help reduce the pain, but does it help them have a life? After all, our job as clinicians is to help people not need us, and to go off and do what matters to them… not what we like.”

We tend to be focused on what we think or hope will “work” for pain, meaning what will reduce pain. But almost all pain treatments are mediocre at best… and so maybe what matters more is how well they work for people’s lives, how much meaning they add, how well they achieve other goals that matter to us. All other things being equal, choose self-care strategies that add meaning and pleasure to life. That way, if they don’t reduce pain, at least you’re still moving towards something else that’s worthwhile! But it’s actually possible that treatments are more efficacious when they harmonize with our lives.

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