mindful pain management

Dr Nick Penney PhD

In 2017 my multi-disciplinary practice Integrative Pain Care was awarded an ACC pain service contract. Patients who are suffering from either acute or chronic and persistent pain who meet certain criteria can now access our services which are fully funded by ACC with no out of pocket expenses to the patients. Please contact reception on 09 520 7473 to find out more.

I am also happy to announce at the beginning of 2018 I became a overseas Fellow of The Royal Society of Medicine in London.

Taking my fathers advice I started my professional career by training as an Osteopath in London. I always thought of osteopathy as a holistic way of viewing people and a good place to start. I quickly realized, however, that whatever discipline you train in, you need to keep up with the science and adapt your approach as knowledge develops. Neuroscience has developed rapidly during my career and it became pretty obvious to me that we cant separate out the mind from the body, you have to consider both, and help patients and people understand how the mind and body 'talk' to each other, what is known as bi-directional communication.

This eventually led me to be accepted to do my doctoral work at the University of Queensland where I studied and researched the Biopsychosocial Model I refer to later as the BPS model. I specifically looked at obstacles to recovery, why we don't recover from pain when everyone thought we would. Back pain contributes more than half of all long-term chronic pain problems and it was reported in 2012 to cost the U.S up to $635 billion a year. But the cost on the lives of the individuals who suffer it cannot be measured in $ alone.

Pain is a complex problem now understood from this BPS approach by The International Association for the Study of Pain (see below for an explanation of the BPS model) and during my studies I became interested in the work of Jon Kabat Zinn who used mindfulness to help the patients at UMass hospital for whom bio medicine could not help any further. I started my own personal mindfulness practice and gradually came to understand what a profound difference it was making to me. I was fortunate to have a close friend and mentor Psychiatrist Dr Don Spencer whom I studied and worked with to co-teach mindfulness based stress reduction. In 2009 I was fortunate to be able to attend an intensive training retreat in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy with Professor Mark Williams. I started to integrate the understanding of Neuroplasticity, how the brain can 'rewire' itself, the influence of epigenetics, how the influence of our genes can be potentially modified and the bi-directional communication between mind and body into my clinical work. Out attention can often be hijacked by pain or distressing thoughts and the mindfulness training helped me understand that we can have a choice on both what we pay attention to, and what meaning we give it. The purpose of MINDFUL MEDICINE is to help you understand that we have this choice, and how to be aware of it and engage it.

I have seen many people of the years troubled by pain, anxiety and depression and what we now understand as Bodily Distress Disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable Bowel Syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivity and increasing numbers of children and adolescents with similar complaints. Understanding that we have a choice to what we pay attention to is a skill which can serve young people in many different aspects of their lives, building resilience and emotional intelligence to help deal with the challenges life will throw at them. So I have also trained to teach the Mindfulness in Schools Projects .b for 11-18 year olds, and the paws.b for 7-10 year olds mindfulness programs. I currently teach these programs in some of New Zealand's leading Independent Schools as well as incorporating it into my clinical work in Auckland.