WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN & HOW DO WE TREAT IT?
Chronic pain is pain that has lasted for longer than 3 months. Currently 1 in 5 Australians suffer from chronic pain.
PAIN DOES NOT EQUAL DAMAGE:
Despite what most people think, the amount of pain you experience does not relate to the amount of tissue damage in the area. Pain is an uncomfortable sensation produced by the brain based on the perceived “threat” to the area.
For example if a muscle has been torn, the nerves will send a message to the brain alerting it to the damage in the muscle. The brain may then decide to send a pain signal to that area to alert you of the damage, causing you to be more protective of the muscle, avoiding further injury.
Conversely think about a scratch that you don’t remember getting. At the time, the signals from the area still travelled to the brain to alert it of the damage, but the brain did not see this as a threat, therefore did not send out any pain signals. In this situation the scratch is proof that tissue damage occurred, however without the sensation of pain.
Why does the pain hang around?
The brain does not just rely on the signals from the muscles and tissues to determine if it should send out the pain signals, it takes on board the information from all our senses and previous experiences. Fear, anxiety and stress will also influence the brains decision to send out the pain signal. After 3 months it is likely that the initial tissue damage has resolved, however fear, anxiety and previous experiences is now having a significantly greater influence on the brain, encouraging the pain signals to be sent and for you to suffer from chronic pain.
How we treat chronic pain
Early Physiotherapy will focus on reducing the damage to the tissues, which in turn will reduce the damage signals being sent to the brain, resulting in the brain sending fewer pain signals. However in chronic pain physiotherapy that focuses solely on treating the painful area may not make any difference to your pain levels. In chronic pain, physiotherapy needs to address all the areas that can affect your pain.
FEAR: Having pain for such a long time you may be scared to do any exercise, worried that you are doing more damage. Research has shown however that understanding how pain is created can help reduce your fear about the pain you are feeling. Our Physiotherapists will help to further explain pain and give you exercises to help strengthen your muscles, allowing you to return your normal activities.
ANXIETY: Your pain may have started when you bent over, you sought treatment and they told you not to bend forward as this may make the pain worse. Now you are so anxious about bending forward that even thinking about the movement elicits the pain signals. Your physiotherapist will help to retrain these movements, reducing your anxiety about them and as a result reducing the pain.
STRESS: Pain can be a very debilitating sensation that can leave you feeling quite down. Exercise helps to increase the production of natural chemicals such as endorphins, improving your overall sense of well-being. It can also act as a slight distraction, shifting your focus away from your everyday pain and stress. Our physiotherapists will help you develop a gentle exercise program, tailored to your current capacity.
Please contact Be Your Best Physiotherapy to find out more about our individual Physiotherapy and group exercise therapy, designed to assist chronic pain clients.