Preventing Chronic Pain: A Human Systems Approach

University of Minnesota

Chronic pain is at epidemic levels and has become the highest-cost condition in health care. This course uses evidence-based science with creative and experiential learning to better understand chronic pain conditions and how they can be prevented through self-management in our cognitive, behavioral, physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental realms.

Chronic musculoskeletal pain (including head, neck, and back pain) is a significant cause of suffering, disability, and health care in the world. Care for chronic pain often involves surgery, multiple medications (including opioids), endless physical and chiropractic therapy, injections, implanted devices, and other passive treatments-- making it the highest cost condition in health care. The burden upon individuals in terms of ongoing pain and suffering is incalculable.

Consider an alternative. By using a human systems approach, we can better understand how individual risk factors in the cognitive, behavioral, physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental realms of our lives can interact to perpetuate chronic pain and, if improved, can prevent it.  

During this course, you will: Identify the problems of our health care system in dealing with chronic pain. Review the diagnosis, mechanisms, and etiology of chronic pain conditions. Explore specific risk factors that can contribute to chronic pain. Learn how a human systems approach can be applied through evidence-based self-management strategies to prevent chronic pain. Experience active strategies designed to enhance the protective factors that can transform our own lives, and those of our patients, to one of health and wellness.

This course was first offered in 2014. The course evaluations were carefully reviewed and the course was modified to improve its quality. Overall, 91% of participants believed the overall experience was satisfying, 92% believed it met the objectives, 93% believed that it made a difference in their life, and 85% believed that it made a difference in the care of patients.

Selected comments from participants included; "This course is one of the most generous offerings that I have ever encountered. There is so much life-changing, life-affirming information available at no charge, to anyone who wants it, is rare and amazing. I am VERY grateful for it." “The learning experience has been tremendous!! Everyone should have this knowledge, especially those in the health profession.” "I loved this class and want to take it again!" “Absolutely fascinating and enlightening…This information should be part of every health care educational program!” “This course has really helped me to understand myself better and why I think, act and see the world as I do.” “I am eternally grateful for taking the time and energy to provide this beacon of knowledge to the world.” “I think this course is a wonderful gift, because pain is an avoidable part of our life. I have learned so many things.”

We hope you enjoy the course and, of course, learn how to prevent chronic pain.


Part  A:  Putting chronic pain in context

  • Introduction to the course
  • The health care dilemma of chronic pain
  • The personal impact of chronic pain
  • The balance between health and illness

Part B: Tracing the mechanisms of pain

  • Myofascial pain
  • Headache
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis
  • Temporomandibular and orofacial pain
  • Current concepts of chronic pain mechanisms

Part C: Preventing pain in the 7 realms of daily life

  • Resilience, self-efficacy, & expectation
  • Exercise, posture, & reducing physical strain
  • Positive relationships & social support
  • Creating safe and protective environments
  • Managing emotional challenges
  • Diet, sleep, & energy
  • Gaining insight, hope, & purpose

Part D: Bringing it all together to help the patient

  • The patient’s story: foundations for clinical reasoning
  • Implementing transformative health care
  • Improving the health care system

Recommended Background

No background is required; all are welcome!

Suggested Readings

All course readings and materials will be available via the Coursera web site. Creative strategies are used to introduce each module. The story and excerpts from the mystery novel The Last Scroll are designed to present concepts such as moderation, balance, and passion that are important in preventing chronic pain and used to stimulate discussions. In this story, a lonely physician travels to an ancient Roman spa in Italy to learn about universal and timeless truths of health and wellness but finds himself a target of a killer. For those interested in reading along, The Last Scroll is available at Amazon. Purchase of the book is not required for this course. Profits from the book are contributed to the People's Campaign for Preventing Chronic Pain to improve prevention and care of chronic pain at: and

Course Format

The course consists of modules that includes 10 - 20 minute video segments including slides, videos, experiential demonstrations, self-management training; and discussions to provide practical knowledge on preventing chronic pain. Engage in creative learning strategies such as teaching through stories, personal assessment tools, and experiential training.

There will be a Statement of Accomplishment offered for this course.


Will I get clinical advice in this course?

No. This course deals with the principles of preventing chronic pain. The course does not provide clinical recommendations for individual situations.

Is continuing education credit available?

Yes. Licensed health care professionals who wish to earn continuing education credits can register by following the steps below.

This is a two-step process:

1. First, register for Coursera's Signature Track by clicking on the yellow bar entitled “Earn A Verified Signature" on this Coursera course page. [Cost: Signature Track for this course is $49]

2. Second, register for continuing education via one of the options below:


The University of Minnesota is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The University of Minnesota designates this enduring material for a maximum of 20.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.


The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry is an ADA CERP Recognized Provider. ADA CERP is a service of the American Dental Association to assist dental professionals in identifying quality providers of continuing dental education. ADA CERP does not approve or endorse individual courses or instructors, nor does it imply acceptance of credit hours by boards of dentistry. The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry designates this activity for 20 continuing education credits. Concerns or complaints about a CE provider may be directed to the provider or to the ADA CERP at

  • 21 September 2015, 10 weeks
  • 26 January 2015, 10 weeks
  • 30 May 2014, 9 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


No reviews yet. Want to be the first?

Register to leave a review

More on this topic:
Download?download_frd=1&verifier=8myve9rdxprqemb7ly14jeaesmkezvn0j1ic6oil My Big Fat Gut Reaction: Ethical Decision-Making for Health Care Professionals
This is a 3-week instructor-led course that will include a review of ethical...
0abc9f560fff4d5321504e73f0f733358f1576b4 Mobile Health Without Borders
The course will function like a conference, but it takes place over three months...
97942_8683_4 Detox Your Life, Pt II
Simple exercises that help clear out the crap and put more happiness and freedom...
3cc62d1907f5ec6761d642344d37e2033a230df8 Mobile Health Without Borders
The Course The course will function like a conference, but it takes place over...
Pregnancy1 Childbirth: A Global Perspective
This course will review challenges for maternal and newborn health in the developing...
More from 'Medicine & Health':
4178fda1-e8c7-476c-81e8-8a6b453a6a76-569208c21635.small Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster
Learn the principles guiding humanitarian response to modern emergencies, and...
7f84da35-2770-43de-886a-c41bcc8f4567-4d2e6c15cc96.small Forensic Engineering: Learning from Failures
Don't let good failures go to waste! Identify the causes of failure and use...
3c05fb77-83cf-4be6-a982-d0fc0cbd31ea-dd80f754b9a5.small Nutrition, Exercise and Sports
Learn about Nutrition, Exercise and Sports and understand how nutrition can...
C822f4c8-45eb-4523-a0a4-f2ef889895f4-227871e30afd.small Essential Competencies for Nurse Preceptors
A learning program that focuses primarily on the preceptor-preceptee relationship...
Ef8093bb-7431-4f54-b2b9-34732a6a615d-ace5f03fb917.small General Overview of Cannabis and the Industry’s Outlook and Professions
An in-depth view of cannabis and its potential uses. This course will provide...
More from 'Coursera':
Success-from-the-start-2 First Year Teaching (Secondary Grades) - Success from the Start
Success with your students starts on Day 1. Learn from NTC's 25 years developing...
New-york-city-78181 Understanding 9/11: Why Did al Qai’da Attack America?
This course will explore the forces that led to the 9/11 attacks and the policies...
Small-icon.hover Aboriginal Worldviews and Education
This course will explore indigenous ways of knowing and how this knowledge can...
Ac-logo Analytic Combinatorics
Analytic Combinatorics teaches a calculus that enables precise quantitative...
Talk_bubble_fin2 Accountable Talk®: Conversation that Works
Designed for teachers and learners in every setting - in school and out, in...

© 2013-2019