University of the Fraser Valley

UFV professor talks about lived experience with chronic pain at Science Café

UFV professor talks about lived experience with chronic pain at Science Café

When Luisa Giles speaks at the upcoming Science Café taking place Tuesday, Feb 27, from 2:30 to 4:30 pm at the UFV Chilliwack library, she’ll have a simple message.

Chronic pain is often invisible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Giles, an assistant professor of Kinesiology at UFV, has endured chronic pain since taking an innocuous fall off a bicycle in 2009. That was followed by two more concussions. Giles has had a constant resting headache the last 15 years, and over time post-concussion symptoms have transformed into musculoskeletal pain throughout her entire body.

“The best way to describe that pain is, right now my legs feel like I had a flu shot yesterday,” she explains. “I also have tons of brain fog and cognitive fatigue, and trying to manage these symptoms with a full-time work schedule is a challenge.”

None of this is visible. If you see Giles in the classroom or walking the halls of the UFV Chilliwack campus, you may never suspect anything was amiss. And that is a problem.

“Most of the time it looks like there’s nothing wrong with me,” she says. “Part of what I’ll be talking about at the Science Café is how small things that people don’t think twice about that can have a large impact on people like me who look ‘normal.’”

Giles rattles off a list of things that exacerbate her issues, lighting (natural vs artificial), and background noise chief among them. There are things that can lessen her pain, but she says there’s a reluctance to advocate for herself because she worries about how she’ll be perceived. She doesn’t have a wheelchair, cast, or cane.

“If I had a broken leg, nobody would make me stand up for three hours. But through no fault of their own, people don’t always recognize what they can’t see,” Giles says. “For me to not feel as much pain, I need this, this, this, and this. But if I ask for this, this, this, and this, I feel like I’m high maintenance, and an inconvenience. And I think people perceive me as that, so I just ask for one thing.

“What I want is awareness. I want to get people thinking about how we can make the environment accessible to people, beyond physical accessibility.”

Giles will connect her presentation to that of Cynthia Thomson, a UFV colleague who is also speaking at the Science Café.

“We collaborated on a clinical trial that talked about not just the medical side of it, but also the psychological and social side, and how your emotions can feed into your pain,” Giles says.

The third presenter is also from the UFV Kinesiology department. Brian Justin specializes in pain management with somatic movement and fitness training. For participants who are willing, Justin asks that you bring a yoga matt.

The Science Café is open to the UFV community and the public. The Chilliwack library is in A building on the UFV Chilliwack campus at Canada Education Park (45190 Caen Ave).

For more information, contact Dan De Groot at