Questions we sometimes get from patients at the clinic are:
“Will this _(insert applicable body part)_ pain ever get better? Am I going down the path of not being able to move as I get older?”
As you read those questions, they may seem surprising and dramatic. However, for many patients who experience persistent pain these questions are an accurate reflection of their fears and they doubt whether they will ever feel well and healthy again.
Below are important concepts about pain to consider.
Understand pain. Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience that we associate with actual or potential tissue damage (IASP 2019 definition). Pain is an output from your brain that alerts you to what it believes is a threatening situation. If you have pain that lasts longer than a few months, you are feeling pain even after your tissues have healed from an injury (such as a muscle strain or ligament sprain). There are central mechanisms at play which are causing the pain to persist. As long as your brain perceives there is still a danger to you, it will “ring the alarm” to protect you. For many, understanding why you have pain can bring clarity and help you to better manage pain.
Context matters. Your brain’s output of pain relies on your life experience, thoughts, beliefs and expectations. Living with persistent pain can be lonely and may cause you to feel hopeless and fearful of doing things. This can lead to a vicious cycle where you become less and less active. Understanding pain science helps to reduce stress and fear, and set realistic expectations as you learn how to manage your pain and recover from it.
Your body is capable of change. Your brain and body are not static but bioplastic and capable of change and adaptation. You can influence your brain and nervous system to be less protective through breathwork, movement and cardiovascular activities. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and do it at a level that increases confidence, feels safe, and is non-threatening to your body’s alarm mechanisms.
Sleep quality is important. Sleep disturbances and poor sleep quality affect your ability to cope with pain and stress. If your cup is empty, all your bodily systems suffer. Your primary healthcare provider such as your family physician or naturopathic physician is a resource if you have questions concerning sleep.
Be an active partner in your care. Physiotherapy and massage therapy treatments guide you to manage your pain better. Instead of coming to treatment with the midnset that you need to be “fixed” by the therapist, know that you have an active role to play in learning how to improve your health. Your therapist is here to support you and empower you along the way.
Watch the helpful video below originally created by Pain Australia: