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Tacking the ‘untapped frontier’ of chronic pain

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Dr Deepak Ravindran

By writing a book on how to deal with chronic pain, Dr Deepak Ravindran aims to help medical professionals and patients alike to better understand the issue.

A consultant is building on his experience of supporting people with pain by writing a book which will help others to develop a mindset to understand and overcome the issue.

Dr Deepak Ravindran has written The Pain Free Mindset, which brings together the experience and expertise of his 20 years working in the specialist field to increase understanding of chronic pain among patients and medical professionals alike.

Through developing a new mindset, says Dr Ravindran – which can help form a new perception and response to pain – a revised approach can be adopted which can potentially remove the need for medication or surgery.

Using the mindset acronym, Dr Ravindran demonstrates a range of areas in which positive change can be effected:

  • Medication – how to use it safely
  • Interventions – how to discuss with your doctor or surgeon
  • Neuroscience – how to better manage stress
  • Diet – what can be included in an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Sleep – the relationship between sleep and pain
  • Exercise – its impact on the brain and role in pain control
  • Therapies – what mind/body therapies are available.

Statistics help to show the impact of chronic pain in the UK, with up to 40 per cent of the population – around 28 million people – experiencing pain from conditions including fibromyalgia, nerve damage, arthritis and headache and migraine. It is also a symptom of Long COVID, more recent developments have established.

But rather than continual medical interventions, supporting people to take control of their chronic pain can secure better and longer-lasting outcomes, says Dr Ravindran.

“Pain is not always the indication or harm we have been led to believe. Pain is our body recognising the need to protect us, but there are options on other ways to react to it other than becoming over-medical and over-anxious,” says Dr Ravindran, a consultant in pain, anaesthesia, musculoskeletal and lifestyle medicine at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.

“Nociception occurs when chemicals are produced through injury, but when that is not present, then it could be that medical intervention is not useful. That’s when we see the overuse of surgery and overuse of drugs.

“Through this book, I wanted to bring out the complexity of pain but at the same time show that there is hope. There are so many ways of managing it, but it remains an untapped frontier for so many people.”

As well as the self-help aspect of the book, Dr Ravindran – who is lead for the Berkshire Long covid Integrated Service (BLIS) – also wants to tackle the gap in knowledge of medical professionals when it comes to chronic pain.

“In the five or six years doctors spend training, pain teaching can account for about 10 hours of that,” says Dr Ravindran, who completed a pain Fellowship at University College London.

“Both pain and nutrition are not taught well in medical schools, and I would suspect it is the same with other medical professions. There are a whole host of medical professionals who still have the same thinking and beliefs as in the 1980s and 90s.

“I’m an anaesthetist and I’d say 99 per cent of pain consultants come from that background. We do a lot of pain relief through epidurals in labour, nerve blocks in surgery, so it forms a big part of our work and interest. Beyond that, there are not many.

“I continue to see people coming to my pain clinic who have been sent by their GP or surgeon, and have been given advice or medication because they don’t know any better. Before I began my work in pain, I may have been in the same situation.

“But from my book, I want to help to change this. A new approach and mindset can be so important for people who have pain, as well as the medical professionals. This is a complex area, but one in which we can all benefit from greater understanding.”

  • The Pain Free Mindset is published on March 4. It is available for pre-order now at Amazon.

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