Book Review: Explain Pain

explain pain

Explain Pain by David Butler, Book Review by Lindsey Muskett

What if a lesson on brain science could revolutionize the way you manage pain?  This is exactly what David Butler and Lorimer Moseley aim to do in their transformative book.  The authors use zany drawings, brilliant metaphors, and humor to introduce concepts that may shift your entire paradigm on what pain is and, more importantly, what you can do about it.

This book challenges the commonly-held assumption that tissue damage causes chronic aches and, instead, offers a powerful argument, based in current neuroscience, that it is created in the brain.  Hold onto any skepticism about aches being “all in your head” though. The key point that the authors develop beautifully is that ache are only experienced when the brain perceives a threat! Pain is like an alarm system, a protection mechanism that’s become a bit (or maybe a lot!) too sensitive.  Think about a fire alarm that rings when a single candle is burned three rooms away.

The authors provide example upon example of how thoughts, beliefs, emotions, expectations, context and other factors play into the sensitization of the response.  For example, the book explores answers to questions like why does a violinist experience more pain from a finger injury than a professional dancer?

How does your relationship with your boss affect your pain levels?  How can an amputated limb feel pain? Rooted in the answers to all of these questions is the foundational takeaway that pain is created in the brain, “100% of the time, with NO exceptions,” as the authors keeps pointing out. This is a powerful concept that provides hope for healing because the brain can be re-trained and re-wired.  Just like a muscle adapts to the load put on it, the brain adapts to the input it is given. Changing that input is likely the secret sauce that the reader takes away at the end of the book. “Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio.”

Although the reader is not going to come away with a quick fix, the book is refreshing and empowering.  For readers who find themselves feeling a little stuck in the weeds during some of the science discussion, they should know that the book provides some clear direction and recommendations too.  For example, the authors point out benefits and examples of “active” pain management strategies that incorporate education, pacing, graded exposure to new movement, virtual exercise (or imagery) and changing thought patterns.  At Take Courage Coaching, these are tools that many of our clients benefit from every day.

As the authors state, “remember that you are the owner of your body, no one else. In the end, it is you who has the most power to manage and rid yourself of any painful feeling you are having.”  For many of us who have been looking for “fixes,” this book introduces concepts that are revolutionary and powerful for managing.

Butler and Moseley’s Explain Pain kicked off a revolution in therapeutic neuroscience education and has become the go to bible for clinicians and sufferers alike.

With great authority, clarity and engaging images, it answers commonly asked questions such as Why do I hurt? , Why has it spread? and What can I do to help?

The Second Edition has been updated to draw on increasing support for therapeutic neuroscience education from clinical trials, education science, neuroscience, plain logic and the failure of drug therapy on chronic pain outcomes.

This book is a proven favorite among health texts, giving new and immediate hope to sufferers and their family and friends.

Enjoying our book reviews? Read another about forgiving here.

About the Author: Kendy Anderson

Kendy lives in northern California with her husband and daughters. The mother of six children—some grown, twin daughters still at home—and a grandmother to five, she raises poultry, enjoys scrapbooking, sewing and gardening, and loves to read. She lives with several pain-producing conditions but hates to miss out because of pain, so she loves coping strategies—choices she makes daily that have her back to “doing life,” rather than being a spectator or withdrawing completely. After being coached for her own pain, she made the decision to take coach training. As a TCC®U- and Nationally-certified coach, she helps clients learn pain management skills and return to happy and productive lives. She wholeheartedly believes it is possible to change your perception about pain.

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