The Mayo Clinic Guide to Pain Relief

In partnership with
Professor Barbara K. Bruce, Ph.D., L.P.
Mayo Clinic College of Science and Medicine, Mayo Clinic
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4.3 out of 5
50 Reviews
82% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 9462
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What Will You Learn?

  • Learn how the body processes pain.
  • Discover which behaviors can lessen your pain.
  • Get tips on how to build an appropriate health care team.
  • Find out how to develop your unique pain-management plan.

Course Overview

If your life or the life of someone you love has been hijacked by pain, you’re not alone. Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. In fact, one out of every three U.S. adults lives with chronic pain triggered by arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, disc problems, fibromyalgia, headaches, sciatica, or other causes. That’s why the experts at Mayo Clinic are working with The Great Courses to craft this research-based guide to coping with chronic pain, giving you access to the same knowledge that has made Mayo Clinic’s highly successful pain management programs so effective.

Almost all of us have experienced acute pain at some time in our lives from an accident, surgery, or dental work, for example. Your doctor most likely prescribed short-term medication, and when the cause of the pain healed, the pain itself and the need for medication were gone. You went back to your normal life.

But chronic pain is different. This is pain that persists for months or years after the initial pain source has healed, or is caused by long-term illness or disease. Or the cause might never be determined. This is pain that can transform a child, teen or adult from an outgoing, engaging individual to a person who wants nothing more than to lie alone in bed all day. This is pain that can rob you of your vitality, confidence, friendships, intimacy, and even your will to live.

But it does not have to be that way.

In The Mayo Clinic Guide to Pain Relief, Barbara K. Bruce, Ph.D., L.P., a clinical health psychologist in the Mayo Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and clinical director of Mayo Clinic’s Fibromyalgia Treatment Program and Chronic Abdominal Pain Program, provides a tried-and-true framework for coping with chronic pain caused by most sources. While acknowledging that everyone looks for a cure and wants their pain to come to an immediate and complete end, she points to a different approach: “I don’t want you to wait for a cure or pain relief before you move back into your life,” she says. “I want you to begin living your life today.”

In these 12 lectures, Mayo Clinic’s easy-to-understand scientific explanations and biology-based suggestions—supported by guest experts and helpful visual aids—can help you create a vibrant and fulfilling future for yourself, in spite of chronic pain.

Among a multitude of helpful solutions and approaches presented, Dr. Bruce specifically covers:

  • Creating a pain management program: Dr. Bruce shows you how to create your own individual program, utilizing the science behind what causes pain, as well as what behaviors can make it better or worse. She also explains the aspects of health that form the basis of a successful program, how to develop SMART goals, which non-traditional therapies may work for you, and the pros and cons of a structured program, always keeping in mind that these elements must be enacted with the help of a medical professional.
  • Why opioids don’t work for chronic pain: While medication can be highly successful for short-term pain and recovery from temporary injuries, opioid painkillers are ultimately not a healthy solution for long-term, non-cancer pain. Dr. Bruce looks at the research that demonstrates why this is and offers healthier long-term solutions.
  • The importance of other people: While we might consider pain a personal problem, Dr. Bruce looks at the social dimensions of pain, exploring how family and social support affects physical health, how mood both affects and is affected by pain and how this can impact your life, and how to build a health care team that combines professionals, caregivers, and other forms of social support.

“It’s All In Your Head.”

Because people dealing with chronic pain don’t always look “sick,” well-meaning friends and loved ones sometimes wonder if the pain isn’t “just all in your head.” If it’s all in your head, couldn’t you just “think” the pain away and get back to normal if you really wanted to? If only . . .

And yet, recent research on the physiological relationship between mind and body has revealed more truth to the “all in your head” concept than you might realize: While the experience of pain is a very real physical phenomenon, that phenomenon occurs in the central nervous system. What if we could alter how the brain experiences that pain?

As Dr. Bruce discusses these new theories, you’ll come to understand:

  • the various parts of the central and peripheral nervous systems and the role each plays in the Descending Pain Modulatory System
  • the extraordinary complexities in your brain’s interpretation and management of pain signals
  • the role played by the spine in managing pain signals
  • neuroplasticity and the brain’s ability to recruit extra power for processing pain signals
  • the gate control theory of pain and how it manifests in our daily lives
  • the use of “virtual reality” to reduce pain sensations
  • the phenomenon of central sensitization—dysregulation of the central nervous system—and its role in various causes of chronic pain
  • how a person with a pain-prone phenotype experiences pain

The Complicated Relationship Between Stress and Pain

We’ve all experienced the physical sensations of stress at some point in our lives: knotted stomach, pounding heart, sweating, headache, insomnia. But for those coping with chronic pain, the relationship between stress and physical symptoms is considerably more complex.

Dr. Bruce provides an in-depth examination of the body’s physiological responses to stress, including the complicated relationship between hormones and chronic pain; the ways excessive stress can “turn up the volume” on pain signals; the impact of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues on the nervous system; and how to reduce stressors that can negatively impact your experience of pain. Not only does she look at physiological cause and effect, but Dr. Bruce also probes the complicated combination of benefit and stress that can come from social relationships, discussing tools to keep interpersonal stress to a minimum, how chronic pain can be affected by emotional upheaval like grief or PTSD, and the negative impact of social isolation.

Not only will The Mayo Clinic Guide to Pain Relief give you the information and tools you need to create and implement your unique pain-management plan with your physician, but the lectures conclude with experts guiding you through physical exercises and a meditation practice that you can refer to at any time. You will no longer need to postpone life until your pain goes away; with this course, your pain-management program begins now.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Why Pain Matters
    One out of every three people suffers from chronic pain-pain that either never goes away or returns again and again. Although pain is a universal experience, there are ways you can manage pain effectively - and live an enjoyable and fulfilling life. Learn from case studies of people who have dealt with chronic pain and how their experiences may help you. x
  • 2
    What Is Pain?
    The latest neurological research reveals that the brain's physical, emotional, and cognition centers all play significant roles in our perception of pain. The fascinating neurology of pain reveals why the most effective pain-control programs address the body, the mind, and the body-mind interaction. x
  • 3
    Common Causes of Chronic Pain
    Many conditions can lead to chronic pain, but one more recently discovered cause is central sensitization. This syndrome is caused by dysregulation of the spinal cord, the brain's thalamus, hypothalamus, and amygdala, and alterations in how pain is experienced. Central sensitization is thought to be the underlying cause of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. x
  • 4
    Medication for Chronic Pain: Why and Why Not
    What are the short-term benefits and the long-term risks of using anti-inflammatories, analgesics, opioids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and other pharmacological treatments for chronic pain? Learn when drugs can be helpful and when it's time to address the bigger goal of successfully managing chronic pain-and managing life-without them. x
  • 5
    How Exercise Helps with Chronic Pain
    Study after study has shown that exercise releases endorphins, improves blood flow to the brain, reduces fatigue, improves sleep quality, and even helps build emotional resilience. But what's the most significant issue in developing an appropriate exercise program for a person with chronic pain? Moderation. Moderation. And more moderation. Learn why. x
  • 6
    Manage Your Stress to Manage Your Pain
    No matter its cause, stress signals your body to release cortisol-its primary fight-or-flight hormone-which increases your perception of pain, causes more stress, and even doubles the symptoms of pain that you experience. Learn how to break this cycle by identifying and reducing the real stressors in your life and adopting new behaviors that reduce stress and pain. x
  • 7
    Social Support for Pain Management
    Medical research consistently shows that people with rich social support networks are healthier in almost every way. But you might be surprised to learn what type of social support doctors have found most helpful for those with chronic pain, and who benefits. Learn how to initiate, develop, and nurture these significant relationships. x
  • 8
    How to Sleep When You Have Pain
    People with chronic pain are more likely to have sleep problems that impact their daily lives and are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Recent research reveals many complex relationships between pain and sleep-and the best ways to get the sleep needed to lessen stress and pain. x
  • 9
    The Vicious Cycle of Pain and Mood
    Symptoms of chronic pain are rarely stable, leading to good days and bad days - and unpredictable changes in mood. It's impossible to completely disentangle chronic pain from mood, especially since the emotions and pain that you feel travel along the same nerve pathways through your body. But help is available for mood disorders, and you can learn how to minimize their impact on your life. x
  • 10
    Building a Pain Management Team
    Do you wish you had one person to lead your health care team? One person to coordinate, explain, and integrate information from your other doctors-to explain all your options and develop the best possible pain-management plan for you? You do. Learn why your primary care physician is almost always best for the job. x
  • 11
    Creating a Pain Management Plan
    Use everything you've learned in the first 10 lectures of this course to create your own effective pain management plan - one that meets your personal goals and identifies the lifestyle interventions that are most appropriate for you in the areas of exercise, stress reduction, social support, improved sleep, and emotional health. x
  • 12
    Active Sessions: Exercise and Relaxation
    Begin two aspects of your pain management plan right now. Let experts gently guide you through physical exercise and meditation practices that will start you on your journey. Learn how to calm your busy mind and improve your chances of directing it where you want it to go-toward relaxation and comfort. x

Lecture Titles

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  • Download 12 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 12 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 144-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 144-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Suggested reading
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Barbara K. Bruce

About Your Professor

Barbara K. Bruce, Ph.D., L.P.
Mayo Clinic College of Science and Medicine, Mayo Clinic
Barbara K. Bruce, Ph.D., L.P., is a clinical health psychologist in the Mayo Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, and Associate Professor of Psychology at the Mayo Clinic College of Science and Medicine, Mayo Clinic. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she also earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. In addition, she holds a Master’s Degree in...
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Reviews

The Mayo Clinic Guide to Pain Relief is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 50.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The first two chapters were to much in depth. we are not doctors.
Date published: 2018-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive presentation Provides a comprehensive overview of pain management from definition to various management techniques. Provides “homework” in each session in applying the techniques discussed. The lecturer makes one feel at ease in discussing and addressing the various aspects of pain relief. Provides a good discussion of the various approaches with the advantages and disadvantages of each, in a clear, objective manner. Explanination clear and understandable to non medical people.
Date published: 2018-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Helpful I have been suffering from chronic pain for awhile and recently it has gotten worse. This course was very helpful for me. I would recommend it.
Date published: 2018-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good info but reliance on family MD not realistic I found the course informative and motivating. One component, I found irritating and unrealistic. There was a constant referral to the family doctor for guidance. Most family doctors do not have the training or understanding to navigate chronic pain. It is unrealistic to refer people to a non specialist. Even doctors specializing in pain, in my experience, do not take a holistic approach. The medical system is generally a mess. We are on our own as far as getting the help we need. I appreciate the information dispensed through this CD.
Date published: 2018-03-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Woeful (shameful?) ommision of medical cannabis Clear overview of key palliative options for pain, but zero reference to the burgeoning field of medical cannabis. Shocking given Dr Bruce's training in psychology, while evidence-based medicine continues to affirm the potential medical cannabis holds for sufferers of PTSD and other conditions. Perhaps pain and anguish from mental illness doesn't really "count" as pain? As a result of this omission, course is already dated, and may even reflect the moral or political biases of the instructor.
Date published: 2018-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Right on the money Very informative. Enjoyed all of it. That all i have too say.
Date published: 2018-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy to Follow If you are interested in learning about pain, causes, controls etc, this is a course for you. No quick fixes but lots of helpful information that can guide you in selecting appropriate therapies for pain management/control.
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Missed a big component and crossed purposes As a st 4 cancer survivor I know chronic pain and have a lot of tools in my toolbox already. This was light weight, high level, not much scientific meat on the bone. They completely ignored the role of ice, heat, sauna and cold in managing pain receptors and inflammation. They should really pull the opiod addiction rehab out of this program and do a separate course. They were trying to serve two purposes and the course drifted in focus to the point where it became a 'come to Mayo for pain meds addiction recovery' speech. Not helpful.
Date published: 2018-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Changing I got this course as a last resort after many different treatments weren't helping. Within the first few lectures I was inspired to change my attitude and in the few weeks I went through this program I saw a major impact! Its literally so beneficial, just try it! Its much more affordable than most medical things you can "try"
Date published: 2018-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Even those not suffering should listen to this cou I bouight this because I thought it might give me ideas for friends in pain, some of whom are too discouraged to take the effort to get the course--some even actively discouraged by doctors who don't bother to stay up with the latest pain studies and techniques. As it turns out, this is not only really useful to know for family, friends, and myself, should we have chronic pain, but it's a reminder of what everyone should do to prevent it.
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing information I really appreciate the information and education I received by taking this course. I suffer from fibromyalgia and thought I was going crazy! Not anymore, cogent explanations and directions for the future. Fantastic course.
Date published: 2017-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from EVERYONE SHOULD TAKE THIS COURSE! Start with the last question I usually answer when I review a book/course I have just completed. WHO SHOULD READ THE BOOK OR TAKE THE COURSE? At first you might think that since YOU have no pain, taking this course is not necessary but the course is NOT entirely just about YOU. As it turns out, the course is not only about a person experiencing chronic pain but also about that person’s support group. Therefore, the course may be for you if you are a family member or friend of someone experiencing chronic pain or if you are the person experiencing the chronic pain. Dr. Bruce is a Pain Psychologist. To understand why that is important to this course and ultimately you, you must first understand what “chronic pain” is. Chronic pain are pains that typically last more than 3 months meaning you may injure a knee but the pain usually subsides and you resume your daily activities in less than 3 months. There are pains such as back pains, severe headaches, and even continued knee, hip, ankle, shoulder and neck pains that may persist and actually never completely go away. This course addresses chronic pains and what can be done when all other corrective measures have been exhausted. Why did I take this course? I have had chronic back pain for over 6 years and it has curtailed many of the activities I engaged in prior to the onslaught of the pain in my lower back. I wanted to learn more about chronic pain and what my options were in combating it. If you are in a similar situation, this course is for you. If you are a family member or good friend of someone experiencing chronic pain this course is also for you. My guess is that if you plan to live beyond 60 years old, this course WILL be important for you. I remember the day when I would watch older people struggle with just walking and would wonder how they arrived at such a fate for them. Then I became that “older person” and now I know how they feel. At times all seems lost. Yes there are people with far worse ailments in their lives than I have in mine but what gets lost in that type of attitude is that the ailments I am experiencing are my ailments and yes they have curtailed a great many of the activities I once performed. Now just walking becomes a problem at times. I tell you this as a form of disclaimer and more importantly to emphasize what someone can learn from this course to help them live a more happier and productive life. The course sets out a plan to deal with a person’s new normal that includes chronic pain. It emphasizes not only that you establish specific goals it helps you determine what those goals should be. It explains pain, sometimes with terms that completely go over my head but the overall explanation is actually easy to understand in spite of those medical terms. The course lays out various treatment options for chronic pain that are currently available including medications one probably has already taken. Then when all measures seem to have failed, the course lays out a plan to learn to make lifestyle alterations to live that happier and more productive life. If YOU have chronic pain or if you know of someone else who has chronic pain, this course should be a must take for both of you. For the person with the pain, it will help create that better life. For the other person it will help them understand what the person with the chronic pain is going through and more importantly what that person is thinking and the emotional crisis that may be caused by the chronic pain. This is a GREAT course. As I said, on occasion it was over my head in regards to the medical terms interspersed throughout the course but the content was not affected by my not being able to recall the various names given to body parts that are affected and controlled by pain. Did it help me? Absolutely. Who should take the course? Anyone with lingering pains or knows of someone with lingering pains that they may be in a position to help. Anyone who plans to live long enough to where physical and mental pain may become a basic part of their life and that would include just about everyone.
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mayo Cinic. Guide to Pain Relief I bought this as I am suffering from chronic pain. I really enjoyed the insights and ideas to help me deal with my pain.
Date published: 2017-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Covers all of the issues of chronic pain well I bought this course to see what the Mayo Clinic had to say about chronic pain and how to handle it day to day. Overall, it was a very good course and one that I will probably loan to a couple of people I know with chronic pain who have quite a bit of problems with the condition. I myself have chronic pain and learned quite a bit about the subject. I am also a family practice doctor who had to leave private practice due to my condition and so although I knew a fair amount of what was being taught (like the trend NOT to give opiod drugs for constant use in chronic pain), I was a bit surprised that some modalities that I had used in practice weren't brought up or expanded on very much like biofeedback and TENS units. Of course, I did the first few lectures of the course several weeks ago so one or more of these older methods may have been brought up more than I recall. Also the reality of a multidisciplinary team approach of chronic pain treatment may be quite difficult for the patient and primary care provider in a rural setting where some of the specialists may be anywhere from 45-90 minutes away. Unfortunately, not all of us can live near such a pain center. My only complaint of this course is when a doctor spoke who used "doctorese" language throughout his half hour presentation. As I mentioned I am a doctor, so I didn't have trouble following him, but many laypeople might. I don't expect him to "dumb down" the concepts, but rather to use more "user-friendly" language. Unfortunately, it was one of the early lectures and I no longer recall his name. You'll know him when you hear him, I suspect.
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Helpful Information This course was very helpful in understanding not the 'why' but the 'how'of chronic pain. That has helped me to better understand the 'why' of my body's response to it.
Date published: 2017-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great video Glad I purchased this video since I feel I have learned much about pain from watching the video.
Date published: 2017-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, comprehensive, and helpful. In depth information and solutions to pain for those of us who suffer daily.
Date published: 2017-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mayo Clinic Guide to Pain Relief My wife has been in chronic pain for several years. This course helped me better understand pain and pain management. Thank you.
Date published: 2017-09-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too long Too long and detailed. This subject matter could be covered much more concisely. I'm debating whether to even finish the course.
Date published: 2017-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative Course on Chronic Pain I bought this course to give me insight to what is actually going on in my body that leads to chronic, drug-resistant pain. The lecturer is clear, concise and knowledgeable.
Date published: 2017-09-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not a balanced approach I asked my husband to order this for me because I have a spinal tumor and I am in great deal of pain. Barbara Bruce does not appear to me someone who really appreciates the nature of unremitting pain. In the course of this course, I wanted to ask Barbara Bruce: what would it be like if you had a fire alarm going off next to your head and it never stopped? Would your main recommendation be exercise and meditation? I am not saying that exercise and meditation are not useful but they can't be the primary recommendations you make for people who are in a lot of pain. Barbara Bruce needs to make it clear that her expertise is psychology and NOT medicine. I have seen presentations by physicians who apparently did understand the nature of chronic pain and they conveyed the idea that there is also a role for the the appropriate use of drugs in the treatment of pain. I understand that this country is in an "opioid epidemic" but that doesn't mean that there isn't an appropriate use for narcotic and non-narcotic drugs to help people deal with pain. Although there are risks for using drugs to deal with chronic pain, there are also risks for not adequately treating chronic pain.
Date published: 2017-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is full of great ideas, very professional presentation, well bland with other and with an interesting and very efficient medical approach. Execelent job!!!
Date published: 2017-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm using suggestions in the course which allowed me to reduce my non-opiate medication by 60%.
Date published: 2017-09-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Promising Title We just finished viewing the DVD. It had some good information but we thought it lacking more current data given the price.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative Audio Course I bought the audio version of this course and have been listening to it in my car. I have already picked up some great information about managing chronic pain.
Date published: 2017-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Helpful Dr. Bruce has a calming, empathetic manner as she delivers information. I have chronic back pain and thought I had few options but she gave me new insight into things to try. My favorite chapters are managing stress, the cycle of pain and mood and the last chapter demonstrating exercises. I'm ready to put her suggestions into practice.
Date published: 2017-06-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A meaningful Course for me (educated Tour Guide). I bought this video less than a month ago in a hope that it could increase my knowledge and understanding about the first video (made by the same Mayo Clinic). Yes, its content satisfied my expectation at a higher level. Thereafter, I would like to watch another 3rd Course that should be able to explain the underlined connection between the recommended physical movements and the reduction of pain. Such explanation can medically link exercises with theory of pain management. As a non-medical professional, I assume that there may be an alternative presentation for deeper connection between lectures and practices (instead of standing alone like the contents of other released body-minded Courses (I have already bought and watched some of them from Great Courses). This is only my instant response and feeling after watching the Courses recently.
Date published: 2017-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent information presented for the lay person Very informative and well organized. It put my pain in perspective.
Date published: 2017-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good overview I got this because I have a loved one who has chronic pain of unknown origin. One of my take aways from this course is that he is not alone -- there are millions of people with chronic pain of unknown origin. But they have to deal with it. The presenter is pretty pragmatic and explains techniques to REDUCE chronic pain, whether the cause is known or not. I don't know if these techniques are effective in my case yet, but I will be sharing this series with the loved one who has chronic pain. We'll see. I do recommend this series, but it's not perfect. I was surprised that, in reviewing pain medications currently available, it didn't cover the efficacy of alternative pain self-medication, such as marijuana. But overall, my guess is that it gives a good comprehensive overview of the state of the science of pain management so you can chart your own course.. I liked Dr. Bruce's presentation style. She was easy to understand and methodical. One reviewer criticized her style as being without emotion and below the TCG average. True, she doesn't have an energetic style, but it was calming and conveyed caring, and was perfectly suited to the subject at hand.
Date published: 2017-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I bought it a few days and find it very helpful Thank you so much.
Date published: 2017-04-13
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