Growing up as somewhat of a tomboy – playing sport, fishing and rolling around in the dirt – activity has always been a big part of my life. As I got older, I came to realise it was my engagement in certain activities (particularly sport) that brought the most happiness and purpose to my life. When my sister suggested I become an occupational therapist, I initially resisted – I thought occupational therapy was just about getting people back to work. When she explained that the term “occupation” simply meant “activity” – and that occupational therapy was really about coaching and enabling people to re-engage in the activities that bring meaning to their lives – I enrolled immediately.
After completing my degree, I began my career – rather ironically – in vocational rehabilitation. My prejudices against “return to work” orientated care had shifted throughout my studies as I came to understand (and experience firsthand) just how profoundly meaningful work could impact one’s overall wellbeing, lifestyle and sense of purpose. So many of us define ourselves by our work. We take pride in it, we find meaning in it, we support our families with it. Guiding people whose lives had been completely derailed by injury or illness, to overcome their pain and return to meaningful work, fast became the most meaningful component of my own work.
Working primarily with people recovering from workplace injuries, I developed a keen interest in chronic pain, injury rehab and mental health. Seeking to broaden my experience, I found my way to a rehabilitation consultancy, where I specialised in supporting veterans to transition from active service back into civilian life. Helping these incredible individuals, who had sacrificed and survived so much, was one of the greatest honours of my life. It also completely shifted many of my intuitions about complex pain. I came to understand that pain was not merely the result of tissue damage, but rather, a complex condition, in and of itself, resulting from changes across many systems of the body, and influenced by virtually every aspect of one’s life. With this understanding, I also came to recognise just how far short of the mark most chronic pain interventions fall – given they so often look only at the tissues, and not at the whole person, their history and their life.
I joined Painless in 2019; eagerly throwing myself behind our mission to reinvent, and humanise, the process through which people with pain receive care. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to play a large role in redesigning our model of care, as we’ve created and honed our Whole-person Care Pathway. A central element of our new model of care has been the introduction of Functional Care Coordination – my personal area of expertise and the role I’m most excited about, having already shared in such profound “turning point” moments with my patients.
My primary role at Painless is in Functional Care Coordination (FCC). It’s a service we’ve purpose-built from the ground up to fill the major gaps in conventional pain care. People in pain so often struggle to find the answers they desperately need. They’re forced to bounce from one specialist to another, one medication to another, one therapy to another – all without any real answers or anyone stopping to ask what they want. Putting you first – your preferences, your goals, your needs – FCC is our effort to remove all the guesswork and uncertainty, all the contradictions and confusion, all the complexity from the pain care experience. So instead, we can focus on what matters most to you.
All the best evidence in pain science today suggests the most effective way to resolve complex pain is to foster your overall health and wellbeing. Resolving pain and creating health are two sides of the same coin. Yet, most of conventional medicine only looks at one side. It’s all pain-killers, surgeries, heat packs and band-aid solutions – failing completely to consider general wellness, movement, nutrition, sleep, meaningful activity, social connection, stress management. Of course, strategies aimed directly at “resolving pain” have their place. But, without also “creating health” they reliably fall flat.
As a Functional Care Coordinator, I place a strong focus on health-orientated pain interventions. Ultimately though, it’s up to you, as the person with pain, to define what “health” means to you. Health may mean being able to walk your children to school without pain. Or it could mean waking up refreshed, after an uninterrupted night’s sleep, feeling optimistic about the day ahead. Health means different things to different people and varies across the stages of their life.
Listening to you, really hearing you, and understanding what health means for you, allows me to guide you in your pain care – and collaboratively formulate a treatment plan that is genuinely personalised and focused entirely on your goals.