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What is Pain Neuroscience Education?

This interview is from the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. You can listen to the full interview below, on iTunes or Google Podcasts.


Can the simple act of learning about pain actually help you to heal it? The short answer is “yes.” In this episode, one of the world’s leading experts in Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE), Dr. Adriaan Louw, joins us to explain how and why.

Tap the player above to listen to the full episode.

About Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD

Adriaan earned his undergraduate, master’s degree and PhD in physiotherapy from the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa. Adriaan has taught throughout the US and internationally for 25 years at numerous national and international manual therapy, pain science and medical conferences.

He has authored and co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles related to spinal disorders w and pain science. Adriaan completed his Ph.D. on pain neuroscience education and is the Director of the Therapeutic Neuroscience Research Group – an independent collaborative initiative studying pain neuroscience. Adriaan is a senior faculty, pain science director and vice-president of faculty experience for Evidence in Motion.

You can find more information about Dr. Louw's courses and books at and

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An excerpt from the episode:

Laura (Host): What made you realize that [a lack of] pain science education was the gap that was causing you to fail when you were trying to do strictly manual therapies with your patients?

Adriaan: I was taught years ago that pain comes from bad tissue. If you have a bad tissue or a bad joint or a joint is injured, then you get pain. And if you have pain, you must have a bad joint. I was indoctrinated into that model. It’s a very stringent orthopedic-based model. And I was failing, I couldn’t help people anymore. You can only do so many techniques.

Then in 1996 I was advised to go to a conference and David Butler, who’s one of the smartest pain brains out there and he was my mentor in the end, was teaching a course in Dallas, TX. I’ll never forget it. I showed up as a therapist and was really at my wit’s end. I didn’t know what to do anymore.

He put up a little picture, we now know it as the Mature Organism Model, and it’s a complex image, but the idea is very simply that pain is way bigger than just a joint or a muscle or a tendon. And I know it sounds so silly probably to your listeners, but it was in that moment when I looked at this picture that I realized that yes there’s a joint, yes there’s a muscle, but that joint, that muscle has a person attached to it.

And that person experiences pain and that person has a favorite football team, that person has parents, that person has family members. All of those factors are as important as the joint and the muscle and the tendon.

That was my aha moment - the idea that that joint that I’m working on is important, but that joint also has a football team, that joint has a person, that joint has a spouse, that joint has hopes, goals and dreams. It was just such an incredible epiphany and I said, “I have to learn more about this.”

[this is an excerpt only - for the full episode, listen to the podcast above]

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