Chronic Pain and how to treat it

Chronic Pain and how to treat it

(This article was recently published in the GU Health Magazine).

Claire Shield – Senior Physiotherapist

 

What is Pain, and when does it become Chronic Pain?

Pain is when the brain perceives that danger to the body tissue exists and that action is required – it is like an alarm system in your body. What we know about pain is that 100% of pain is produced by the brain.

Pain includes sensory information:

  • Memories of the pain (you remember how much something hurt in the past, or something reminds you of a significant injury and you experience that pain again)
  • Emotions (stress or unhappiness can make you experience higher levels of pain)
  • Consequences of a response (you step on a nail, it doesn’t hurt initially, but when you see the nail in your foot, you think of the risk of infection/damage, etc. and you then experience a higher level of pain)
  • The environment (busy, stressful work environment makes you more aware of your neck pain).

When pain becomes chronic (more than 3 months) your brain concludes that a threat still remains and that you need all the protection you can get, even though the initial inflammation in the tissue or injury have recovered. There is enhanced sensitivity of the body’s alarm system.

What may start off as a bit of localised inflammation on the outside of your elbow from doing long hours of typing (often referred to as Tennis Elbow), may develop into a chronic pain situation if you continue to do the task and you don’t seek treatment.

chronic pain

 

How do you approach chronic pain?

A physiotherapist will be able to tell you that most tissues (muscles, joints, discs, ligaments, etc) are often healed by 3-6 months. Chronic pain is pain that has been present for more than this time, and it is less about structural changes, and more about sensitivity of the nervous system and the brain’s alarm system.

The key to treating Chronic Pain is to educate the client, to allow them to understand that pain is not just “issues in the tissues”, but that the brain adapts over time and becomes better at telling you you’re in pain.

As Physiotherapists, we help you to “retrain your brain”. It is about exploring ways to move that are not harmful or damaging. The great news is that you can exercise your brain as well as the actual body.

For more information on Chronic Pain, watch this 5 minute YouTube clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b8oB757DKc

 

What can the person do to help themselves?

The Physiotherapists at Your Health Domain believe in empowering our clients through educating them about their injury, why it is occurring and how they can prevent it. Ultimately we want our clients to get better and become independent of us as practitioners.

 

Our goal as a Physiotherapist is to get you back to exercise, sport or work with confidence and comfort. As a client, it is helpful to be clear and honest with your goals and expectations so we can help you along the way. Set yourself realistic short and long term goals, and understand that chronic pain can take a long time to manage.

The approach to dealing with your pain will probably be different from how your colleague deals with a similar injury. Everyone is different. It is about identifying your fears, concerns, and emotions. It is vital that you understand that all these things contribute to your pain.

 

Tips on how to prevent being injured at work

Assess your work area prior to commencing work each day to ensure all your equipment that you use is positioned in the best way to minimise the stress on your body. Fit your environment to you rather than you to your environment!

 

A huge population spend long hours working at a desk so it is crucial to have your workplace set up for you. Making small adjustments to the position and height of your desk, chair and computer will ensure better postural alignment reducing the risk of overuse injuries, neck and back pain.

Your Health Domain offer great tips on how to set up your work station on our website www.yourhealthdomain.com.au

chronic pain2

 

Your Health Domain has access to a range of fantastic user-friendly resources on Chronic Pain including the “Explain Pain” Book by David Butler.

Contact Your Health Domain today to arrange a physiotherapy appointment or ergonomic assessment. Please call us on 9251 5111 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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