How pain changes your brain – News – The University of Sydney

Professor Paul Glare at the Pain Management Research Institute.

Opioids are good for acute pain. With chronic pain they only work short to medium term, he says. But after about six months, you become tolerant and have to take bigger doses. Then theres the growing risk of accidental overdose, even accidental death.

For many people though, opioids seem like the only way to numb the pain that constantly attacks them. But do they in fact, numb the pain?

Most people who come off the long term use of opioids realise that the drugs werent doing that much, says Glare. Theyd already stopped working, so the pain without them is often no worse. In fact, the drugs were just messing with their heads. Still its a huge psychological step to let the drugs go.

Gently spoken and with a great sense of compassion for the people he works to help, Glare started his career in palliative care which took him into the area of cancer pain, then pain more generally. Because its difficult to tell people battling chronic pain that there is no satisfactory pharmaceutical answer at this time, the PMRI has a large and active pain education unit.

The Unit offers a Masters of Medicine Pain Management that is also conferred as a Masters of Science for non-medical graduates. It also runs cognitive behavioural therapy classes teaching strategies for rising above the pain.

The classes are challenging, says Glare. But many people who learn the self-management techniques can reduce or even stop their opioid use. Its about them not being afraid of their pain anymore.

Its the nature of chronic pain that the injury its warning you about, sometimes very loudly, isnt actually there. This can be seen in a persons posture as they sit and walk in a way that protects that non-injury. By gently confronting the pain, the person can eventually reclaim their normal posture and walk more confidently. Through that, they feel stronger within themselves and more in control of their pain.

The PMRI is now looking at digital support resources for people dealing with pain, Were developing an SMS based text messaging service and a more sophisticated chat-bot tool, to help people get over the hump of opioid tapering, says Glare. Its new in the pain world.

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How pain changes your brain - News - The University of Sydney

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