About this resource

To control something, we need to understand how it works. Although it might sound weird, and even though it’s part of our lives almost every day, most people don’t really understand how pain works. This downloadable handout explains the basics of how pain works and the many ways we can bring ourselves relief and comfort.

Using simple language and visual metaphors, we break down how pain happens in the brain and that the experience of pain has three parts: biological, psychological, and social. Understanding each of these three parts is really powerful because it opens up many possibilities for making things feel a lot better. The handout outlines how anyone can use this information to help themselves with any pain…from a little stubbed toe to headaches and stomachaches to major injuries.

Another slightly different version of the handout was developed for kids and families dealing with high-stress/low-resource situations, like people affected by the war in Ukraine. You can find out more about that here.

How to use this resource

These resources can be used digitally or printed out. It can be used by medical providers to help explain to patients their pain experience and treatment options, or by patients and families themselves to explore strategies on their own.

Medical providers can use it as a powerful tool for explaining the biopsychosocial model of pain and how any pain experience is about much more than just tissue damage to the body. That’s not crazy…it’s well-proven neuroscience. It can help parents and kids understand that when we talk about using mind-body strategies, stress management skills, or suggest psychotherapy, medical providers aren’t saying a child’s experience of pain isn’t real. The message is that the pain IS very real, and the path to feeling better will include the many factors that always influence the pain experience.

Who this is for

Parents, caregivers, kids, teens, and medical providers.