Deborah Barrett, PhD, LCSW, is a clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Social Work, and the author of the book called “Paintracking:Your Personal Guide to Living Well with Chronic Pain.” Barrett starts with the assumption that improving one’s experiences comes from understanding them. Paintracking is making sense out of what hurts and helps, and using that information to make the best choices possible. Says Barrett, “Living well with chronic pain often involves acting contrary to intuition. For example, if you awake feeling as if you were pummeled in your sleep or are too stiff to move, it seems perfectly reasonable to stay in bed to recuperate; however symptoms often worsen with rest. Or when pain is mild, it may seem practical to load up on activities; yet such enthusiastic responses to pain reprieves can trigger debilitating symptoms. Most people with chronic pain understand what “over-doing it” means. Managing chronic pain requires treading the precarious line between doing too little and doing too much. What is needed is a reliable roadmap, based on data, not guesswork.” Barrett believes that by looking at your own collected data (Paintracking) you can build a set of adaptive responses to help guide your behaviors – that overtime can become more instinctive.

Beginning to document or journal your day to day experiences around your migraine or headache pain might be difficult at first. Barrett recommends focusing on one or two issues in the beginning. Tracking data on a daily basis began to work for her when she saw it as part of her daily routine – like brushing her teeth. It can help you to be actively engaged in your own care, and can provide tools for working with your health care provider.

“There was a time when I could not have fathomed living well with chronic pain, but that is exactly what I am doing. Tracking has allowed me to know precisely what makes my pain soar (and how to prevent it), as well as ways to maximize my comfort and productivity. No matter how bad you may feel, tracking can help you feel better by identifying cause-effect relationships, thus refining your understanding of what brings comfort.”     Pain Pathways   Spring 2013


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