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Students have a Flippin’ great day putting pain in the spotlight

BySven Wardle

Mar 20, 2023
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Students spent a day learning about the science of pain and pain management through a range of attention-grabbing events presented by Flippin’ Pain, a public health movement.

During the day, 82 Year 12 students heard from guest speakers and took part in workshops to raise their awareness of the spiralling impact of pain on individuals and communities, with the aim of changing how we think about, talk about and treat persistent pain.

Professor Cormac Ryan, Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation at Teesside University and Community Pain Champion for Flippin’ Pain, led an engaging and entertaining talk on pain science and explained Flippin’ Pain’s key messages: that pain is common and can affect anyone; hurt does not always mean harm; everything matters when it comes to back pain; medicines and surgeries are often not the answer; understanding your pain is key; and recovery is possible.  The students also heard from Mrs Heather Hughes who suffers with chronic pain, and learned about her experiences and how constant pain affects her on a daily basis.

Students worked in groups of 10 to create projects that would reflect their learning but more importantly to practise sharing the knowledge they had acquired with friends and family. Students evaluated one another’s group projects and were responsible for awarding prizes to the winning teams.

Michael Walton, a retired anaesthetist with a long-term interest in the treatment of pain, presented the winning team members with £10 book vouchers, kindly donated by Castle Hill Bookshop and Flippin’ Pain. He said: “I found the study day on pain for the sixth form students to be both innovative and very informative. An excellent presentation by Professor Cormac Ryan and the group discussions that followed, focusing on the causes and treatment of chronic pain, gave the students an understanding of how pain can affect all walks of life and the importance of its long-term management.”

The students also visited the Flippin’ Pain ‘Brain Bus’, a series of immersive activities that invited them to experience first-hand some of the mind-blowing, lesser-known phenomena of pain science. This included illusions of all types including VR taster sessions that helped challenge perceptions with the message that what you feel is always real but that our brains’ conclusions can sometimes be inaccurate.

Dr Jagjit Mankelow, Lecturer in Rehabilitation Science at Teesside University, said: “The day’s workshops were carried out in a research format to allow the outcomes to be analysed and enable Flippin’ Pain to review if the way they deliver pain science education alters student knowledge and beliefs. I was really impressed with how the students interacted throughout the day and the pertinent questions they posed. Pain is a huge problem, internationally, nationally and locally and it is often widely misunderstood. Flippin’ Pain aims to dispel some of the myths and empower people to take back some control and find a better way forward.”

Students were surprised to hear that in the North East of England 43% of residents have persistent pain and that approximately 35% of children and young people have persistent pain, with approximately 22% associated absenteeism from school. They found the day most enlightening and comments included: “I like how we got to hear from someone who actually suffers with chronic pain” and “I didn’t realise you could feel that much pain without having anything wrong with you.”

Les Richardson, Head of Sixth Form, concluded: “Working with the Flippin’ Pain team was very enlightening for all of us! The students were surprised by some of the messages from Professor Ryan and were able to have fun exploring these in their own presentations. It was an excellent opportunity for us to consider something which could be life altering. The students gained a great deal from the education and responded in their usual mature, positive and cooperative manner.”

Flippin’ Pain work in conjunction with a number of key partners such as Teesside University and the NHS. You can find out more about pain education at www.flippinpain.co.uk and www.paintoolkit.org