Pain Press

Pain Matters supplement
July 2020

Hello and welcome to Pain Press, the monthly e-newsletter from Pain Concern, the charity working to support and inform people living with pain and those who care for them, whether family, friends or healthcare professionals.

Feature - Book Review

by Phil Sizer

Sheldon Press, 224 pp, £7.19
ISBN: 978-1-84709-479-7
Published June 2019

Review by Clare Scott, Clinical Nurse Specialist at the NHS Borders Chronic Pain Service

Chronic pain is high on the agenda at present, from government interest and freedom of information requests to broadsheet health pages and promotion of new books on how to ‘manage it’ in the mainstream media. The difference with this book – Chronic Pain the Drug-Free Way – is that its author is not a doctor or an osteopath, rather an experienced facilitator with the charity Pain Association Scotland, who has supported individuals living with chronic pain for the last 20 years.

I must confess at this point that I know Phil Sizer and had bought his book for my own personal reading as I have the utmost respect for him. Phil has led support groups in the Scottish Borders for the last five years and during this time I have heard nothing but praise for his monthly sessions. Word gets out, and what originally started as a maintenance support avenue for patients who had completed our pain management programme, now has attendees who mainly comprise of individuals who self-refer or have heard about it from their GPs or pharmacists.


Its title could suggest that it is only worth reading if you don’t or can’t take medications; however, this is not the case but it has come from a place where people have been told there is nothing more that medicine can do! Consisting of 17 chapters, each opening with an inspirational quote ranging from Aesop and his fables to Oscar Wilde that perfectly set the scene of the text that follows, Phil sections his work into three main issues: understanding pain, managing it and coping with it.

In part one, Phil presents the science behind the complexity of chronic pain and raises the importance of looking at life as a whole for which pain often takes the blame for everything, at times unfairly – ‘pain affects life and life affects pain’.  As well as describing a heightened alarm, gate theory and central sensitization, Phil explores the ‘knots’ of life that can be impacting on pain.


Managing such a complex condition is not easy and Phil has heard it all in his years of work. Ultimately, he challenges the reader to start managing their pain and be honest about the barriers that we put up. This book asks readers to radically change their relationship with pain and suggests focusing on what can be done rather than what cannot. Examples of change are given and practical tips such as recognizing ‘boombustitis’ (i.e. the ‘boom-and-bust’ cycle), chronic stress, learning relaxation, sleep hygiene and the importance of balance in our lives. In turn, such strategies can help with flare-ups and, if embraced, Phil’s fillers and drainers and PANTS cycle will become part of regaining life.


In the last section on coping, the contentious topic of acceptance is raised. From my own practice, I know that not all people living with chronic pain accept their condition but still go on to gain an improved quality of life through supported self-management. This is reflected in the book; Phil suggests that rather than strive for acceptance, readers start to adapt. With small achievable changes, focus shifts away from pain and lives are enriched. In all honesty, it’s what keeps you in the job. However, it was the final chapter on Punk Pain Management that inspired my imagination – get attitude, break the rules and dare to be ourselves again. Phil Sizer’s parting message is that his book is bittersweet as our funding for Pain Association Scotland is coming to an end. Yet, this book is also a gift, for its publication offers us Phil’s passion and wisdom for self-management of chronic pain within its pages. We just need to get him to do it as an audiobook now so his voice will remain with us also.

This review was originally published on 24 February 2020 in Pain Matters 74, available to order here

Latest News

A 10-Year Anniversary: Reflecting on the Declaration of Montreal
24 June 2020

On September 3, 2010, 260 delegates representing 62 countries came together at the first International Pain Summit. The document that would emerge from that meeting, the Declaration of Montreal, proclaimed that access to pain management is a “fundamental human right.”
In the years since, the Declaration has been referenced in a variety of global initiatives, including EFIC’s Societal Impact of Pain platform, the United States Institute of Medicine’s Relieving Pain in America report, and the subsequent United States National Pain Strategy. It also played a role in helping several European countries expand pain management education programs for clinicians and other healthcare workers, and in spurring the inclusion of pain codes in ICD-11.

To read more, click here
Annie Lennox backs calls for pain clinics to resume in Scotland to end ‘inhumane’ agony
12 June 2020

Singer Annie Lennox has described the suffering of chronic pain patients amidst lockdown as “indecent and inhumane”. The international star from Aberdeen, who suffers from the condition herself, has called for specialist clinics closed months ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic to be reopened.
Ms Lennox has suffered from intense nerve pain in her back for more than 10 years following an operation – an agony she describes as “excruciating” at times. She said: “As a long-term chronic pain sufferer, I understand only too well what it feels like to go through hours or days with extreme physical discomfort. Without medication or clinical treatment, life becomes torturous and untenable.”

To read more, click here
Managing Chronic Pain during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Patient Perspective
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Billie Jo Bogden is a patient advocate with a long history of living with pain, including from multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). She champions innovation in pain medicine, better education, and collaboration with academics, researchers, healthcare professionals, and community leaders. She was also the co-founder of a chronic pain patient group called the Patients of Eastern Ontario Pain Lifestyle Education (PEOPLE) Centre in Ottawa, Canada.
In this RELIEF interview, Catherine Paré, a PhD student at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, asks Bogden about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with chronic pain and the challenges of managing pain during this difficult time.

To read the full interview, click here
The new episode of Airing Pain was released on Tuesday 7 July 2020.

Tune in as producer Paul Evans talks to Dr Cathy Stannard and Dr Srinivasa Raja, leading pain specialists and experts on opioids, about the opioid crisis in both the US and the UK; patient advocate Louise Trewern tells her story of reducing her opioid use; and GP Dr Jim Huddy talks about the rate of prescribing in his surgery.

Watch the trailer below

Airing Pain #123: Opioids. Listen or Download 7 July 2020

Subscribe to Airing Pain via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts

Our new issue, Pain Matters 75, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the very first Pain Concern (UK) Lothian Group newsletter, later to become the Pain Matters we know today, we have gone back to where it all started.

The Lothian Group was a patient support group set up by members of the Astley Ainslie Hospital pain management programme, so it seems appropriate that this issue is being guest-edited by the Chronic Pain Management Service from NHS Lothian, based at the same hospital.
The team have themed this issue around the topic of compassion-focused therapy, showing different ways in which compassion can be a key concept as part of a holistic pain management approach. A lot has changed in the world since our last issue, and here at Pain Concern we think that compassion is something which we could all use more of at the moment.
To buy or subscribe, click here
For a digital version, click here

Missed an issue of Pain Matters? Fear not. You can now buy a selection of back issues via our website or our Pocketmags page for inspirational information about a range of chronic pain-related issues.

Please note: physical magazines are only available to people in the UK and while stocks last.

Pain Matters Evaluation

There is still time to have your say in our evaluation of Pain Matters magazine. Evaluation is a key factor in securing funds, not just for future issues of Pain Matters, but to fund all the work we do here at Pain Concern.
We have included a short questionnaire with the current issue of Pain Matters and we would be extremely grateful if you could complete and return it to us. This is not just for people with chronic pain, we are looking for responses from all our readers. Alternatively, you can visit and complete the online version. It should only take about five minutes and your responses will help us to continue producing the wide variety of resources for people living with pain.


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