Chronic Pain Can Feel Unbeatable—Is There a Coach for That?

By Becky Curtis and Dee Emmerson

When pain is the main event day in and day out, it can obscure the joys of living. Every event, job, hobby and relationship suffers as chronic pain takes over our lives.

If you’re like many of us who live with chronic pain, you are on a quest to find the solution… the doctor who can explain the pain, the test that solves the mystery, the treatment or medication that will hopefully take the pain away. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or treatment.

What then?
Because all patients are different and there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for chronic pain, the pursuit of a solution can take months or years. Our physicians and therapists provide oversight and expertise for whatever treatment or therapy is available to relieve us. In the meantime, life seems to get put on hold as we continue to look for the end to chronic pain.

What options do we have if medical professionals hit the wall, where no therapy, surgery or narcotic fixes our pain? Here’s the thing: when we’re in pain, we just want someone to take it away. But if that isn’t possible, the alternatives are to either give up or deal with it.

Have you noticed that athletes and competitors have coaches who guide them through their challenges with body mechanics, physical workouts and the mental game? Executives also engage coaches to help them attain goals and improve communication skills. Even smokers and dieters utilize coaches to change poor lifestyle habits.

But where does the person in pain find help?
When someone walks with you—offers a new perspective, holds you accountable and celebrates your successes—the grip of pain is broken. When you feel like quitting, a coach helps you devise strategies to stay on track. Coaching breaks the gradual decline caused by chronic pain and isolation.

Coaching integrates knowledge and skills into pain management, and does not replace the authority or advice of a participant’s physicians and therapists. Referring professionals can even provide guidance to coaches and receive follow-up reports. Physicians who refer their chronic pain patients say pain management coaching is the missing link in standard care plans. Most importantly, coaching augments medical care by focusing on restoration.

Coaching is not analysis or psychotherapy. A pain management coach believes every person has strengths and capabilities that have taken a back seat when pain becomes the driver. The coach helps a client recognize their strengths and identify values, and encourages goal setting that moves the client toward self-motivation, restoration and accomplishment. Courage is what enables a person to move back into the driver’s seat. Instead of looking back, coaching looks forward to workable pain management strategies and a rewarding life.

Coaching is the opposite of handholding, enabling, and all those psychological labels that describe weakness and dependence. The objective of coaching is to help clients reignite passions, engage strengths and move in a desired direction.

This is a significant piece of the pain management puzzle, because the focus on pain is displaced by gratifying and enriching thoughts and activities. The pain may still be there, but it is given less power. Coaching provides initial courage until a participant has developed the skills to self-manage pain and jump back into life with enthusiasm.

Improvements gained through coaching are not temporary; their endowment lasts a lifetime and inspires continued engagement and progress. If getting on with life—thriving in spite of your pain—appeals to you, consider the role coaching can play to help you attain that goal.

Becky’s Story:
I was on the fix-me quest a few years ago following a violent car accident…and an inoperable medical condition that produced excruciating pain 24/7. Nothing took the pain away. I wanted to go back to enjoying my life, being a mother and wife, coaching, and participating in the activities I once loved. But always the pain was the headliner screaming to be seen, heard and felt.

 I was fortunate for the opportunity to attend a pain clinic where I learned pain management strategies such as lifestyle choices and ways to distract my mind from the pain. Then I went home—back to my doting family and friends, back to familiar routines… and back to living with my pain.

 The isolation was frightening. No more therapists and teachers to help me get through the day, and no team members who understood my plight.

 I needed a coach.

 If I was going to live with pain—not just survive it—I knew I had to understand it. I started with what scientists already know: Pain happens in the brain, and the choices I make and the habits I form make the difference between languishing and thriving.

I was discovering coping techniques that proved the brain was not just involved, but responsible for the level of pain I experienced.

 As I implemented these discoveries to create my own pain management program, the pain became less of a driving force in my daily existence. I stopped using the painkillers that left my head in a fog and I started living again. Then I had an idea: what if coaching could help others thrive in spite of pain?

 I was already a coach, but had usually helped people find better ways to communicate with a spouse, discover their strengths, and choose their college major—things like that. I took the coaching techniques I knew and began helping a few people design personal pain management plans for themselves. Many of them saw improvements in their pain and in their ability to return to activities and work. This developed into a program I named Take Courage Coaching™. 

 About Becky Curtis
Five years ago, Becky Curtis founded Take Courage Coaching™, gathering a group of professionals in coaching, counseling and communications who share her passion for making life less about pain and more about living. Through the courage of those who have learned how to enjoy life in spite of their pain, others are finding their way back from the brink of despair. Becky lives in Montana with her husband and daughter, and frequently speaks at conferences and to professional groups about chronic pain and pain management coaching. For more information about Take Courage Coaching™, visit

About Dee Emmerson
Dee Emmerson is a freelance writer. Her favorite projects help people help themselves, whether it’s a story or describing life-changing strategies for improving the one life we each have to live. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two ocicats, Cappuccino “Cappy” and Latte.