Introduction to Pathways (Chronic Pain App) – [Collaboration]

Woman in grey sweatshirt and white sports bra and untied brown hair stretching outdoors

I have recently become the target of much advertising revolving around pain management. As someone who has dipped in and out of the chronic illness blogosphere since arthritis first raised its ugly head in 2014, I didn’t know what to make of the claims of pain being a brain-controlled phenomenon that we can control too. It felt all a bit like the New Agey manifesting craze that has taken over the business world, and I was concerned about dismissing not only my own experience over the past 5 years, but also the experience of everyone I knew who battled with a chronic illness. However, after the latest wall I hit with my GP over the source of all my problems, I decided to give it a try when an email from Jenna at Chronic Illness Blogs came through looking for bloggers for a collaboration with the Pathways app. I had already discussed the monetary aspect of such programs with my mother, so the chance of accessing every corner of the app as a tester just added to the incentive to actually doing it instead of talking about it.

Contrary to my expectations, my first day week trying it contained at least a good half hour of science-specific sessions explaining the background of the new pain science, with a terminology that is easy enough to understand even without a small background in neuroscience (which I have because of a term spent studying neuroethics), or in-depth knowledge of science journals. Aside from the big ones probably everybody knows, I’m not that well versed, but every chapter provides you with a reference list of papers to look into, which I intend to do even though I have already left behind my scepticism. At the time of writing, I was sitting in a Pret waiting for a yoga class after 3 days bed-ridden with the curse that has followed womenfolk since Eve in the Garden of Eden, and this is an unusual occurrence.
I would normally develop pain around the sciatic nerve when spending so much time in bed, especially if sitting up and crossed legged working on my laptop, and I would be terrified of going out and being met with it. I wouldn’t dare to sign up to a gym class. What I had heard until then has convinced me to at least try and see whether the pain is mechanical (I wrote real, but then realised I was falling into the trap of thinking about pain the wrong and dismissive way. Pain is real, whether it has a cause in damage of the body to which your body responds, or your brain’s autonomous decision).

There will be regular updates here, on Instagram and perhaps Youtube (a girl needs an excuse to do her hair). In the meantime, I would like to talk about just how user-friendly I’ve found it so far, how much more in control I feel, and how I appreciate the lack of a Janet-like figure talking to me as if it were a person and not a robot. The journey starts with a questionnaire about our pain and medical and psychological history. Then the sessions, all under 15 minutes so far, address the basics of pain science, skepticism about how this would work and exercises to let you think about your pain differently. The sessions follow a logical order and get unlocked the more you progress, but a helpful feature allows you to save any favourites to return to (I’m saving the exercises ones). There are also periodic recaps, so you don’t forget your progress. There are also meditations within the app to help those of us who scored high on the anxiety test, but that everyone can use as an enjoyable addition. It is advised to do 2-3 sessions a week for steady and sustainable progress with the main app, so these meditations are also a helpful way to keep a daily routine by alternating where a session is from. At the time of writing, I have used the Sounds of Nature meditations only, but my stress levels in Welltory are already looking less dauntingly high.

I’m about to publish this post a few days after writing the bulk of it, so the 1h yoga class has happened: I have injured myself in my knees and wrists, as I believe I was still scared to hurt the lower back and put the weight towards the extremities instead, but I went home and remained without any significant lower back pain for the few days that followed. The only issue I had, which may have had to do with the 4 am alarm and lack of sleep, was a migraine taking up all of my afternoon on Saturday. One of the types of pain addressed by the Pathways app is migraines, so I look forward to reducing those too over time, instead of spending life hiding from the triggers I can control (and hating the times when I have triggers that I cannot control).

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