Is it possible to crochet your way out of chronic pain?

When Paralympian and Doctor of Clinical Science, Dr Lisa Chaffey, experienced unrelenting pain in 2013, she didn’t guess then that her love of craft would act as a pathway back into living her life almost pain free.

A wheelchair user all her life, Dr Chaffey’s world changed dramatically when she slid from acute to chronic pain. Her pain was due to a spinal nerve sending a mistaken pain message, but her brain responded to it as if the pain had a physical cause, known as neuropathic pain.

She spent the following two years looking at research for a way out of pain and is now sharing her very personal and informative story in the hope it may help others. What she found was a new and exciting view of changing how the brain processes pain, using neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change itself).

“Rewiring Pain, a new way to reclaim your life” describes Lisa’s journey into and out of chronic pain, and provides a step by step guide, using everyday activities and habits to spark neuroplasticity.

The basic idea is to create brain pathways that compete with pain for attention. The exciting discovery outlined in this book is the focus on the receiver of the message (the brain), not the sender (the body part). Anyone can use this book regardless of the cause of pain.

A Deloitte Access Economic report commissioned by PainAustralia found 3.24 million Australians were living with chronic pain in 2018.  The report put the total economic cost at $73.2 billion AUD including costs to the health care system and productivity losses.

However, the cost is much more than financial. Lisa’s own experience attests to this. Her experience of chronic pain included multiple trips to doctors and specialists as each ruled out specific diseases and possible causes for the debilitating and recurring pain. As hope dimmed, her world narrowed to the 200 metre radius of her couch.

“I tried desperately to cling to my normality and how I wanted to live my life but my mantra became ‘i just can’t do it’.  I was angry because I was beginning to lose everything I had worked for and I was fearful of the future,” she said.

An occupational therapist and academic researcher by training, Lisa used her famous stubbornness and grit and stumbled on emerging research in neuroplasticity. That revelation changed her approach to the way she was managing her pain, which is where her love of creative pursuits came in handy.

“It wasn’t until I started researching brain function that I saw the neuroplastic potential of craft and creative pursuits,” Lisa said. “Brains are wired and rewired by what we do and retraining the brain is possible with determination and taking a different approach in everyday activities, including doing simple things such as knitting, writing or even cooking a fancy dinner.”

In “Rewiring Pain”, Lisa uses her own experience of chronic pain in conjunction with the research she uncovered, to outline practical advice and tips in changing the way the brain responds to pain.

The book is broken into three sections, culminating in the development of a ‘pain plan’ to help those with chronic pain find a way to manage using everyday activities.

Rewiring Pain, A new way to reclaim your life, is available on Amazon and Apple iTunes.