This blog began as a journal of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Award visit to the USA to study how Lifestyle Redesign could be used in Occupational Therapy to improve the hospital/home interface for older people. It has continued to record developments and inspiration gained from that experience since returning from Los Angeles early in 2012.

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Friday, 2 March 2012

Lifestyle Redesign for chronic pain


Dr Susan McNulty came to speak to the Lifestyle Redesign(LRD) class about the LRD programme for chronic pain that she developed. She has since modified it and also runs a separate programme for chronic headache, usually migraine. Dr McNulty's clinical background is in Mental Health, she has worked in the US and in Ireland.

We have been doing a lot of background reading on he complex issue of pain, how it is measured and how it is experienced in different ways by different people. A cause of pain is not always 'diagnosable' i.e. it doesn't always show up on tests, XRays etc. This can contribute to the idea that pain is 'all in your head' when in fact it is much more complex than that.


Chronic pain is very prevalent (estimated over 130 million people in the US). Those who experience it are 'high healthcare seeking', they may be unable to continue with work or other occupations or may stop doing things due to fear of making pain worse. Very few get to see a pain specialist.

Dr McNulty's programme operates within a multi-disciplinary team that specialise in pain. The team includes a pain physician, psychologist, OT, physiotherapist and yoga instructor.

Why OT for pain management?
  • Chronic nature of this condition
  • Lifestyle factors have great impact on engagement in occupation
  • Works to change beliefs, attitudes, habits & routines
  • Lifestyle components influence pain levels
  • Role deprivation or overload  have an impact
The programme is flexible and can last 6-8 weeks to several months if required. The Lifestyle Redesign process of  didactic content, occupational self analysis, discussion, problem-solving, self-reflection and goal-setting is followed. Dr McNulty stated that she is not sure that OT can reduce pain, but can help to manage it, which in itself can reduce the perception of pain. OT aims to enable the person to create a routine that prevents flare-up and allows a balanced level of activities that allow the individual to manage pain and enhance their quality of life.

The talk was brought to life with case studies:

Elizabeth