Chronic pain is a term health care professionals use which refers to any pain that extends beyond the expected healing time. In Ireland, 1 in 5 individuals are affected by chronic pain to the point which it significantly impacts on their daily life. One of the problems your health care providers face when treating chronic pain, is that many factors can contribute to ‘how much it hurts’ besides just the tissue injury. These factors include but are not limited to: thoughts and beliefs about physical activity, pain and injury; changes in the nervous system which result in “turning up the pain volume”; low activity levels; fear of movement and increased anxiety about further injury/pain; previous pain memories; interactions with friends, family, workmates and therapists; depression and anxiety; unrealistic treatment expectations e.g. ‘Sometimes it will not be possible to be 100% pain free’. The longer the pain persists the more complex treating the pain and secondary issues can become, but do not fear, our physios are very experienced and will still be able to work through your problem with you.
One very important message we like to convey is that chronic pain is not “in your head”. Chronic pain is very real and can be very difficult to understand as it is not always able to be “visualized” like a wound or a broken bone. Please ensure that you get your information from trusted health care professionals who understand chronic pain and are able to provide strategies to assist you in dealing with your pain.
Our number one strategy? Motion is Lotion!
The body and mind love movement and gradually becoming more active is essential for treating and managing chronic pain. Some benefits from exercise include: improved healing and increased capacity of the tissues; the nervous system winds down, movement promotes relaxation; improves mood and helps with anxiety and depression; increased pain tolerance after exercise. It is normal for people with chronic pain to experience discomfort/increased symptoms as they gradually become more active. Guidance with acceptable and non-acceptable pain can be very helpful and reassuring. There is no one optimal type of exercise for chronic pain, therefore exercise programs should be individualised, ideally be done under supervision and be fun! For some people, the stress imposed by chronic pain is beyond their ability to cope and consultations with a Clinical Psychologist experienced with pain management is beneficial. In some instances, a combined treatment approach involving a number of health professionals (e.g. GP, Psychologist, Physiotherapist, Pain Specialist, Exercise Physiologist, etc.) will be the best way forward. If you would like to talk to one of our physiotherapists about chronic pain and starting a management plan please get in contact by clicking the below link.