noigroup logo

A stitch in time

By Blanaid Coveney Uncategorized, Metaphor and language 10 Aug 2016

A metaphorical dropped stitch


dropped stitch


I was shooting the breeze with a friend and colleague, when she used a lovely metaphor which I thought worth repeating. Her patient was unsure of the way forwards after some exercises had been modified and some pain education provided. Should he drop x, y or z in favour of a, b or c ? Sensing his frustration, she reassured him by saying that he actually had all the pieces that he needed. Now, he just needed to tie them together. She described it thus:

“You know if you were knitting a jumper and realised you had dropped a stitch? You wouldn’t unravel the entire thing, would you?  No, you would go back and pick up the stitch and then you would have the complete garment”. 

The metaphor really hit home. Understanding that he had all the information to move forwards and that there was no conflict in merging differing concepts or ideas was a great reassurance to him. 

The power of the right metaphor

Using a metaphor that resonates with your patient can make all the difference.  You know that often elusive little nugget which helps the fog to lift and clears the way for the patient and yourself to move forwards together. I loved the metaphor of the dropped stitch and picking it up. It reminded me of those who have a great grasp of their pain and the causes but may have a small gap or a metaphorical dropped stitch in their knowledge. Helping them “pick that stitch up” may mean they get the complete (emergent) picture, which enables them to take charge and move forwards in a positive way – like the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle being slotted in, I suppose.


-Blanaid Coveney

Blanaid Coveney is a practising physiotherapist in Dublin, Ireland. Her professional interests include pain, epidemiology and all things brain related.




EP3 events have sold out three years running in Australia, and we are super excited to be bringing this unique format to the United States in late 2016 with Lorimer Moseley, Mark Jensen, David Butler, and few NOI surprises.

EP3 EAST Philadelphia, December 2, 3, 4 2016

EP3 WEST Seattle, December 9, 10, 11 2016

To register your interest, contact NOI USA:

p (610) 664-4465



Last chance to get on an Australian Explain Pain or Graded Motor Imagery Course for 2016

Gold Coast 30 September – 2 October Explain Pain and Graded Motor Imagery (Close to full, remaining tickets selling fast)

Perth 15 – 17 October Explain Pain and Graded Motor Imagery




  1. davidbutler0noi

    Nice ! – this links to the knowledge enrichment part of education – the filling in the gaps to make the picture complete, as opposed to conceptual change which is when there is knowledge getting in the way that needs revision.

    I am using it!


  2. Lovely Blanaid,
    All power to the metaphor…..anyone that’s has seen the film “The full Monty” will have enjoyed the dance routine moment when ” the penny dropped” as the dance routine was likened to the off side rule in football. I might be alone on this one!
    DB London
    On location 😎😎👰

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Product was added to cart.