Making memories - shaping children's future pain with Dr Melanie Noel

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Welcome to another episode of The Words Matter Podcast.

On this episode I'm speaking with pediatric pain scientist and psychologist Dr Melanie Noel.

Melanie is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Calgary, and a full member of the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

She teaches and supervises within the CPA-accredited Clinical Psychology Graduate Program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary.

And her behavioural research lab is based within the Vi Riddell Children's Pain and Rehabilitation Centre at Alberta Children's Hospital.

Melanie completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology and Dalhousie University Canada, and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Pediatric Pain Research at the Seattle Children's Research Institute.

The overarching aim of her research is to understand and harness the influence of cognitive-behavioral factors, like pain memories, on children’s pain trajectories using developmental frameworks. Her interests cover the areas of acute pain (such as painful medical procedures such as surgeries or vaccinations) and chronic pain in a variety of clinical and healthy populations.

Her clinical interests include child clinical and pediatric psychology populations, with particular interest in the intersection between children's physical and mental health.

So in this episode we talk about:

  • public health messaging in relation to pain, in particular the influence of these messages on children.
  • the nature and prevalence of paediatric chronic pain, and some of the key predictors for such pain states.
  • diagnostic uncertainty for children with chronic pain and their parents.
  • her research in the area of children's anxiety and pain memories as cognitive-affective mechanisms underlying trajectories of pediatric pain and future pain as adults.
  • the dynamic and dyadic relationship between a parent’s mood and behavioural responses to a child’s chronic pain and how parents’ protective responses (such as pain catastrophising) influence a child’s pain experience.
  • her strategies to reconstruct and re-frame a Childs pain experience to engender more positive behaviours and attitudes towards pain.
  • At the end of the show you’ll hear our surprise that Melanie and I share a common experience, with her having triplets and me being a triplet.

So this was an absolutely fascinating talk, with someone really at the edge of knowledge in this crucial field. Melanie’s sheer enthusiasm and passion for her work is a joy to listen to as well as her compassion for the participants and patients that are involved in her work.

On many instances the conversation is directed to the role of parents, rather than clinicians; but this episode has huge value for those without children, and significant value even if you never see children in your clinical work.

If you seek to obtain an understanding of where your adult patient’s pain beliefs, emotional responses and behaviours may originate from this podcast offers a real insight.

Find Melanie on Twitter @MelanieNoel

If you liked the podcast, you'll love the Words Matter online course in effective language and communication when managing back pain - ideal for all MSK therapists and students (discounts for students available)

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