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Airing Pain 48: Nursing Beyond Drugs

How nurses can use relaxation therapy, massage, acupuncture and empathy to help people manage their pain

[For a Welsh language transcript please click here.]

This edition has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All Programme in Wales.

‘Imagine how it feels if you’re in pain and people won’t help you.’ Like other healthcare professionals, nurses can sometimes struggle to understand the perspective of people living with pain. At a training day for student nurses devoted to chronic pain, Gareth Parsons impresses on his audience the importance of believing the patient and delivers some uncomfortable truths based on his research about the frustrations people with pain often have of healthcare professionals: ‘you are the problem!’

Equipped with the training they receive, hopefully this group of nurses will instead be part of the solution. The first step is understanding that chronic pain is a condition in its own right – this way the nurses will be aware of the problems of treating chronic pain as if it were acute (for example, excessive use of opioids) and be able to help tackle anxiety and fear.

With a better sense of the nature of chronic pain, nurses will be less likely to ‘throw drugs’ at the problem, Owena Simpson says. She guides the student nurses in a session of relaxation therapy, while Maria Parry teaches the students basic massage techniques and recalls her own experiences of how a patient of hers was able to overcome insomnia thanks to massage therapy. Gareth Parsons finishes the session with an acupuncture lesson and explains why this treatment may be more effective for some patients than for others.

Issues covered in this programme include: Medication, alternative therapy, relaxation therapy, massage, acupuncture, educating healthcare professionals, insomnia, over-prescription, side effects, nociceptive pain, patient voice, patient experience, palliative care and inflammation.


  • Gareth Parsons, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing, University of Glamorgan
  • Maria Parry, Senior Lecturer in Palliative Care, University of Glamorgan
  • Owena Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing, University of Glamorgan.
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