Pain BC collaborates with West Coast Island communities to develop best pain management practices

A series of free classes on Gentle Movement and Relaxation was offered in Tofino, BC to help rural and remote residents manage their pain

Submitted by Kathryn Sutton, Pain BC

Managing chronic pain can be challenging and complex for even the most urban of city-dwellers, but if you live in a rural or remote community, finding support can feel almost impossible. That’s why Pain BC is collaborating with communities around the province to develop programs that increase access to best practice pain care and build capacity among health care providers.

Pain BC is a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of the one in five British Columbians living with chronic pain through education, empowerment, and innovation. The first community program it co-developed enabled residents on the West Coast of Vancouver Island to access free physiotherapy services for pain management. The physiotherapist-led Gentle Movement and Relaxation class series first ran in the fall of 2016 in Tofino, Ucluelet, and Hitacu. The class series continues to run in the spring and fall of 2017 in Tofino, Ucluelet, Ahousaht, and Ty-Histanis.

Specifically designed for people with persistent pain, the class series teaches people to use movement safely and mindfully as a pain management practice. It has been very well received, with an average “helpfulness” rating of 8.2/10 by participants, and 19 out of 20 respondents from the first series saying they would recommend the class to others.

The class series emerged when a GP from the area reached out to Pain BC for support, which led to a community consultation (made up of local health care providers and patients) to better understand the gaps in service. Pain BC provided the coordination and seed funding to get the class series off the ground, and co-developed the curriculum with Island Health physiotherapist Carley Grigg and pain expert Neil Pearson.

Recognizing the value of the class series, local community organizations have jumped on board to provide support. The District of Tofino contributes a space for the classes; Nuu-Chah-Nulth Nursing Services provided boat transfers to Ahousaht; and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust has awarded a grant to the class series. With the support of the community, this program continues to provide inclusive and sustainable pain care to those who need it.

Pain BC chats with the Gentle Movement and Relaxation class series developer and instructor, physiotherapist Carley Grigg:

Why do you think running this class is so important to your community?

People in persistent pain living on the West Coast don’t have access to affordable therapy services. The closest Pain Clinic is located in Nanaimo, so for people in persistent pain to see any specialist regarding their condition they need to travel three hours each way. This class allows people in persistent pain on the West Coast to have access to affordable specialized care locally. It teaches them how to move more in their lives, which in turn enhances the possibility of recovery.

What kind of success stories have you heard as a result of this class?

People have reported that they have less pain and more movement and function. When reassessed during their physiotherapy appointment, they also measure to have increased range of motion and decreased pain.

How do you see this class improving further?

My hope is that the yoga instructors who have been involved with the program start running their own private yoga classes appropriate for those in persistent pain. In this way, after completion of the class series, when patients have learned to self-manage their movement and pain using the principles we teach, they can continue to attend appropriate regularly scheduled classes to continue to recover.

Do you think that other communities would find value in running the Gentle Movement and Relaxation class series themselves?

I think it’s a fabulous program to bring to a small community. There are very few resources in a small community and people in persistent pain will seek medical attention in all areas. The root of this program is about improving movement and decreasing pain for those in persistent pain but what we have also done, which is a huge gain, is build community capacity in a small town that doesn’t have much in the way of rehab. It creates more options for those in persistent pain to be able to go move safely and continue to improve. It’s a great program.

If you have ideas about improving pain management programming in your rural or remote community, Pain BC may be able to provide coordination and seed funding. Contact Pain BC Community Engagement Lead Jamie Ignacio at