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Understanding Pain: What to do about it in less than five minutes? is the title of a video that aims to explain how pain conditions - and especially chronic pain - can be understood, and what can be done to get better.

 Image: Dreamstime (with licence)

The film is made in collaboration between GP Access and Hunter Integrated Pain Service, which is an interdisciplinary team located in the public health service in Newcastle, Australia. 

Here is a summary of what emerges in the film.


Pain is 100% of the time produced by the brain

A key point in the film is that pain always has to do with the brain. Without a brain, it would not be possible to feel pain either. The film reveals the following: 

Pain is a universal human experience. That is: we all have experience with pain. We now know that pain is produced 100% of the time by the brain. This includes all pain, no matter how the pain feels and how long you have had the pain.

Acute pain

Pain that you have had for a few weeks or months is called acute pain, and it is common for this to occur due to tissue damage, for example with back injuries or sprains. A general encouragement for those suffering from pain is to stay active and gradually return to doing the usual activities of daily living, including work.

Chronic pain

When you have had pain for three months or more, this is called persistent or chronic pain because in this type of pain, tissue damage is not the most important issue. Chronic pain is a very common condition. In Australia, 1 in 5 people have chronic pain. 

Having a brain that continues to produce pain even after the body's tissues have been restored and is out of danger is not pleasant. Some say it still feels like there must be something wrong with their body. But chronic pain is to a lesser extent about structural changes / injuries in the body and more about the sensitivity of the nervous system; in other words, it is a very complex condition.


Here you can see the movie

A complex phenomenon that requires a retraining of the brain

In the film, we are introduced to the idea that the brain must be trained to deal with pain in new ways. The film tells:

To try and find out what is happening, it is recommended that those who experience the pain must retrain the brain and nervous system. To do this, it can be helpful to look at all the things that affect the nervous system and can contribute to your individual experience of pain.


  1. Medical perspective

    Firstly, from a biological / medical perspective, medication can to some extent be helpful in pain conditions, but only to a certain extent, and at the same time other approaches are needed to retrain the brain. Some people believe that surgery may be the answer, based on the assumption that it is a structural damage in the body that creates the pain, but according to the training film, this has little to do with the complex problems that chronic pain is.

  2. Psychological perspective

    Second, from a psychological perspective, it is helpful to consider how your thoughts and emotions affect the nervous system. Pain is a major nuisance in the lives of those affected by it, and can therefore also have a major impact on mood and stress levels. However, there are ways to reduce stress and calm the nervous system, which also affects the pain experience.

  3. Diet and lifestyle

    Third, diet and lifestyle can be an approach that can be helpful. What we eat and how we live can contribute to a more sensitive nervous system. Factors such as smoking, nutrition, alcohol and activity level are mentioned here, and by assessing whether there are areas that can be changed in the direction of a healthier lifestyle, could have a positive impact on the pain.

  4. The deeper feelings / meaning

    Fourth, it can often have tremendous value to explore the deeper meaning of the pain and the personal story behind it. In some cases, pain will occur in periods of life characterized by worry (eg related to social situation, family dynamics, loss of job, etc) and a consequent worsening of the pain problems. Recognizing an opinion, or the deeper emotions, associated with the aggravation of the pain will be useful for many people, and an important part of the recovery process.

  5. Physical activity - without fear

    Last but not least, physical activity is mentioned as important. When the brain experiences that you dare to expand your range of motion, without fear that this is dangerous, you will be able to gradually build up the body's tissues.

In short, seeing chronic pain from a broad perspective shows the importance of retraining the brain and gives you a number of options for what you can start with in dealing with the pain. 



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