Preventing Chronic Pain: A Human Systems Approach

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.

About The Course

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 spring of 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; “The learning experience has been tremendous!! Everyone should have this knowledge, especially those in the health profession.” “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.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I get clinical advice in this course?

No. This course deals with the principles of preventing early stage chronic pain from becoming chronic, severe, and disabling. 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:
  • Click to register for continuing Dental education credits through the University of Minnesota's Continuing Dental Education Program. [Cost: $300] The University of Minnesota’s Continuing Dental Education program will issue you CE credits upon confirmation of completion from Signature Track.
  • Continuing Medical education credits through the University of Minnesota's Office of Continuing Professional Development will also be offered. The link for this will be posted soon. [Cost: $300]


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

 CREDIT DESIGNATION STATEMENT. American Medical Association/Physician Recognition Award. 

 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

Recommended Background

No background is required; all are welcome!