Coaching Yourself out of Pain?

Coaching Yourself out of Pain?


As a physical therapist and spiritual life coach, coaching someone in pain presents some challenges. Communication becomes a critical factor as pain sensations are often tied to emotional stories and feelings of loss. Chronic pain is more about how the brain perceives the threat then the actual painful body part.

It can be difficult for someone in pain to understand that the sensations they are feeling often run deeper than touching the body. It requires a trusting partnership between coach and client.  As much as someone tells me their goal is, “To become pain free”, we must be very aware when behaviors suggest the mind has no intention to be uncomfortable during the process. That fact of life is often a trapped pattern of personal insecurity but it renders the practitioner unable to help them succeed. If ignored, that attitude can often result in opioid or alcohol abuse or the need for another intervention. As a professional, it is my responsibility to understand when lifestyle or health coaching is out of my league and either collaborate with a more qualified provider or decline the coaching job and refer them to a better solution. The worst thing someone can do is to poorly manage the cognitive piece of the issue.


The Language of Coaching A Less Painful Experience

In cases of persistent pain, my number one responsibility is to move them into a better relationship with their body, a calm mind and a supportive lifestyle. Educating them about the complexity of their experience requires us both to understand the delicate dance moves within the science of pain.  I can not just motivate them through a workout telling them to ignore the messages to the brain and denying that fact is dangerous. In addition, the coaching will not produce the outcomes all may want. In addition, if a person really believes they want a surgery or medicine, it is best to refer them to an orthopedist because chances are they will get it and be happier than working with me.

This is why everyone working in the arena of lifestyle medicine need to become very well versed in another language, the language of coaching people out of the fear of physical, emotional or spiritual pain. This fluency requires knowing how to read another person’s non verbal moves as well as listening. One needs to intimately understand what it looks and sounds like to feel threatened and mirror that image to the client.


About author
Lisa Holland

Lisa Holland

I coach smart, passionate, strong, women who are willing to learn a more feminine styled way to achieve success because they are not feeling as healthy, secure or energized in their life as they want to be. My ideal client is a woman that is ready to regain ownership over her life and is willing to transform her perception of self with a goal to enjoy better health, social impact, relationships, and financial power. As a women's health advocate, I celebrate lady leaders from a variety of vocations who are co creating this vital harmony between our homes and work life on my biweekly podcast called Owning HER Health on iTunes. On the clinical side, my company ,Belly Guru LLc, has been a proactive healthcare model for treating woman's pain and performance for the past 11 years. My approach is lifestyle coaching women out of painful circumstances , helping them understand hormonal influences and advantages, identifying motivators for behavioral change, and navigating health challenges by assessing and supporting not only the physical components of chronic symptoms, but the evidence based mental, energetic and psychosocial needs of not feeling well.

  • JT#1

    May 4, 2017

    Lisa, great piece! I feel that some clinicians just “get it” when it comes to helping a patient deal with their perception of pain. What do you suggest to suggest to peers that don’t seem to get it, to help them improve and understand the concept of coaching a patient out of pain?


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