With new awareness of chronic pain and its impact on the physical, financial, and emotional health of the U.S., there is more and more information available to chronic pain patients interested in self-education. The challenge becomes finding reliable, trustworthy resources to broaden your knowledge base without overwhelming or discouraging you. Here are a few ways to become a self-directed autodidact.

1. Coursera

Coursera is revolutionizing MOOCs (massive open online courses) in all areas of study. Experts in their field design their class and post the syllabus online. Registration is open and free to all. There are several class offerings that can help chronic pain patients dig deeper into causes and possible treatments for their condition. The following two courses approach the issues surrounding chronic pain and treatment in very different ways.

  • Preventing Chronic Pain: A Human Systems Approach: With a “creative and experiential approach,” this class offered by the University of Minnesota looks at all aspects of the human system to better understand the origins, treatments, and prevention of chronic pain. Participants, a mixture of clinicians, patients, and caregivers, rate their experience in this course highly. First offered in 2014, this course is in progress for 2015 but should be offered again in the future.
  • Drugs and the Brain: For patients who are prescribed opioids as part of their pain management strategy, this could be a great way to understand how those drugs are working in their brain. This class is for those who have some background or interest in neuroscience. If you are not familiar with the terminology, it may be a little more challenging, but there is always something to learn by stretching your mind!

2. American Academy of Pain Medicine

The American Academy of Pain Medicine offers videos for patient education. Each video is designed and presented with the patient in mind, so complex concepts and terminology are broken down and simplified for easy understanding. These short videos deal with topics ranging from complementary medicine to managing prescription pain medications.

3. TED Talks

By now, over 1.5 million people have watched Elliot Krane’s eight-minute talk on the mystery of chronic pain, but there are many more talks that offer insight into all aspects of chronic conditions and their treatment. Look for different compilations of talks on general health topics, or search for specific talks that address specific conditions like migraine headaches and arthritis.

4. CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help

This website offers a wealth of information in multiple formats. Registration is open for an online self-help course that begins in July. While these courses are not free, they are low-cost and there are scholarship options. In addition to the online course, CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help also offers an online library with articles, books, and worksheets. For those who prefer a book to read instead of a computer screen, there is also an online store that features the book Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia: A Seven-Part Plan.

5. Pinterest

When you think of Pinterest, DIY craft projects and hilarious baking mistakes may spring to mind, but Pinterest is also a great place for patient self-education. A quick search of the term “chronic pain” brings up thousands of pins. Refine your search to a specific condition for more focused results:

Other resources

Local programs: Depending on where you live, there may be local self-education resources that you are not aware of. Stanford University offers a program on chronic pain self-management. This program consists of a two-and-a-half hour workshop once a week for six weeks. This program is delivered by people trained by Stanford, so the cost may vary depending on the organization.

Chronic pain forums: Chronic pain forums such as those moderated by Pain Doctor and other organizations can be a great way to get some initial information and ongoing support for a variety of chronic pain conditions. You can also look for forums tailored to your chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis. As always, be safe online; choose a forum that is moderated, and don’t give out specific personal information (e.g., address and telephone number).

Chronic pain bloggers: Bloggers are some of the best resources for information on chronic pain, but they offer so much more. Chronic pain bloggers are in the midst of their chronic pain, which allows them to better understand the trials and tribulations of others going through the same thing. Chronic pain patients may be able to feel less alone in their struggle when they realize that not only are other people going through the same thing, but they are also thriving and moving forward. Start with the best fibromyalgia blogs of 2014, or search “best chronic pain blogs” for so many other blogs to choose from.

Twitter: Strangely enough, seasoned Twitter vets can pack a lot of information into 140 characters. Join and search #chronicpain for up-to-the-minute posts on research, treatment, and prevention.

Whether you choose to start your journey of self-education in your pajamas on the couch, taking an online course, or sitting in the library with a support group is up to you. There are many options for patients who want to empower themselves with more information.

Where do you look for self-education information on chronic pain? Share your favorite resources below!

Image by Adrian Clark via Flickr


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