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Stop Throwing Spaghetti at Brick Walls! Why Pain Education Matters
By: Nataliya Zlotnikov, MSc, HBSc

Mandarin Pick Up Lines and The Curse of Knowledge

Just because we know something doesn’t mean that others will want to know it or have the ability to know it as we do. 

This short video from Mike Stewart's online healthcare course on Embodia, Know Pain: A Practical Guide to Developing Your Patient Education Skills, illustrates this idea and leaves us with something to consider about how we communicate with and educate our patients.

Today's blog provides you with a window into this fantastic course. If this course were a book, it would be a page-turner!


Course Aims

In his engaging course, Mike Stewart aims to help you:

  • Understand how you transmit knowledge
  • Appreciate the stages of learning development
  • Understand facilitation, challenge and support
  • Learn how to unblock learning blocks
  • Explore how to create and sustain interest
  • Explore creativity and divergent thinking 

Click Here to Learn More With Mike


The course mentioned above is based on Mike Stewart's live webinar. If you are looking for the live and interactive experience, we highly recommend signing up for one of his upcoming two-day webinars, A Practical Guide For Persistent Pain Therapy on Embodia on April 2 & 3 or September 17 & 18.


Are You Teaching Your Patients Mandarin?

Sometimes we might treat a patient, give them an exercise prescription and they feel great for a few days, but then they return to see us with the same issue 2-3 days later.  

And while most businesses love repeat customers, the same doesn't always hold true for healthcare. If our patients are returning to our clinics with the same issues, perhaps something is amiss. 

As physiotherapists, we may have Jedi hand skills, but how are our communication and teaching skills?


Education Is Not Copy-and-Paste 

Communication is the central component of education.

Dreeben (2010, p. 4) argues that patient education forms a significant component of modern health care.”  However, many clinicians have a limited toolkit (Hinchliff, 2004). Education skills are merely assumed in both practice and research (Bolton, 2010). We tend to belittle pain education in healthcare saying, "well, anyone can teach."

But truly educating people in a way that sticks is harder than we believe. Think back to the great teachers that you've had in your life; you can probably count them on 1 hand.

The psychologist Fordyce once said that for behavioural change, information alone is like throwing spaghetti at a brick wall - it doesn't stick. 

Simply throwing information at our patients and expecting them to understand is much like Fordyce's quote. When we cast our patients as passive recipients and do all the talking while they just sit and listen, the patients may often look engaged, but when they return 2-3 days later and we find that the spaghetti has not stuck to the brick. 

Education Is Therapy

Not only does education allow patients to feel empowered but it also helps them recover. 

In the scans below (Shpaner et al., 2014), we see the same subject before (A) and after (B) 12 weeks of CBT-based pain education. 

The top brain is much more anxious and active. A confident and happy person amplifies brain signals far less than an anxious and miserable person.

This data shows us that education really can have a therapeutic effect.

When we help people understand the situation that they are in, they feel less threatened and more confident to be able to get back to doing the things that are important to them. 


Click Here to Learn to Teach


Communication Is Key!

In his course, Mike Stewart uses this fun short game to demonstrate the importance of communication. It's something great to try out with your patients, partners, families or friends. 

Watch Embodia co-founders Maggie Bergeron and Elie Afif show off their skills in this game. 

The Collaboration Game

This game demonstrates the importance of communication between two people. This concept can be applied to all patient interactions. Learning to listen and guide patients, rather than tell and instruct, is a critical component of forming a therapeutic alliance and achieving the best possible outcomes with our patients.


Click Here for the Full Course


Test Time!

Did you remember how to say it? Your eyes are very beautiful, in Mandarin.

Mike Stewart (he/him)

Mike is a physiotherapist, researcher and university lecturer with over twenty years of experience in helping people overcome pain.

He has an MSc in Education and Physiotherapy and is planning a PhD focusing on how people in pain make sense of their experience. His published work has received international praise from the leading names in neuroscience. Mike teaches across a variety of clinical settings including elite sports, and is an advisor on pain management to the International Olympic Committee.

Mike is a dedicated practice-based educator committed to providing evidence-based education to a wide variety of health professionals. His Know Pain workshops have provided clinicians around the world with practical pain education skills.

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