Understanding Chronic Pain

chronic pain

Are you suffering from persistent pain?

Have you tried everything out there and it’s just not working?

Do you feel stuck in a cycle of pain?

All of us have been in pain and most of us have injured ourselves at some point in our lives; back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain or something else. And it is normal to experience these issues – I’ve never seen anyone living without some niggle or annoying ache here or there. Luckily for us, those aches or niggles tend to leave us alone after a few weeks.

But what happens when things get worse or pain becomes more persistent?

Often, we tend to think that something is broken, strained or worn-out within our body. We tend to see our body like a car that needs to be fixed or needs some maintenance.

Unfortunately, our body doesn’t work that way. You cannot just get surgery or manual treatment to ‘fix’ your body parts that easily. If it was that easy then “cracking your spine”, replacing your knee or getting a cortisone injection should be enough to be out of pain. But for many people who have seen doctor after doctor or therapist after therapist, have come away without an overnight cure because it’s just not that simple.

Have you tried different treatments such as massage, spinal manipulations, injections, medications or surgeries and it didn’t work for you?

This experience is normal. We know that when pain has been hanging around for a long time, those types of interventions do not provide pain relief on the long term and you need a different treatment approach to your issue.

So, how does pain work?

Pain is like a defence mechanism that comes from your brain. Your brain is like a computer that helps you to do basically everything in your daily life. Thinking, eating, sleeping, moving etc. Your brain connects with your body through your spine and to all the tissues of your body. And unfortunately, your brain can create pain signals that go through your body to alert you and protect you from danger.

Why does this happen? Well, it is a useful system that helps us to avoid more problems. For example, if you burn your hand while cooking, you will remove it quickly because the pain signals from your brain are telling you something is wrong/there is danger. So, you see, it is an amazing system for our survival. Without this system, you would not realise that your hand is burning and you wouldn’t take action to protect yourself.

Sometimes, when we experience pain for too long, this system is hijacked or altered, and our brain can overreact to movement such as twisting, bending or simply moving. And guess what happens to you when you move? More pain. And overtime your body becomes more sensitive and it is where you feel tension in certain areas of your body such as back, neck, shoulder, hip or knee and by consequent pain.

When our pain system becomes overprotective to the point that you feel it constantly every day, it can prevent you from moving and engaging with your daily activities. And it can be a problem because we tend to do less when we are in pain. We get worried that we will create more damage within our body. So, we go to the doctor or someone says to you… “It’s bone on bone”, “your disc is out of place”, “It is a tear” or “your cartilage is worn out”. If you hear something like that, you’re more likely to freak out. We try to get on Google to find Cures or Magic Fixes and we are left more confused and scared due to the overwhelming amount of information online. We think that surgery, injection, brace or spinal manipulation are the best options for our pain.

Check out the YouTube video Tame the Beast – It’s time to rethink persistent pain.

What can you do about it when you have tried everything?

You need to understand, pain is very unique to everybody. Your pain can be really different to someone else’s, even though you may be both experiencing lower back pain.

Therefore, you need an individualised approach to your condition. Because your brain has been learning to react to pain and movement, it has learnt to generate more pain. So, if your brain can learn to do something in one way (e.g. generating more pain), it means that we can also retrain your brain, your pain system and your body to do the opposite (e.g. generate less pain). The result by achieving less pain is also less sensitivity.

At this point, you may think something like:

  “ I have arthritis and my joints are worn-out.”

  “ I have had back pain for so long, it will never get better.”

  “ My neck is out of place and always has been.”

  “ My MRI shows a tear in my shoulder.”

Yes, I know it can be hard to believe that pain can be produced by the brain when you have been told so many stories in the past. But you can retrain your pain system to act differently regardless of your condition.

Here is a simple approach: 

  1. You need to start developing an understanding of your unique situation and how your body became overly sensitive and why your pain mechanisms have started overreacting. That’s why taking the time you need to explain your story to a health care practitioner is important.
  2. You need to get a physical assessment to see how pain is affecting your movement and your life in general. We know that chronic pain affects you as a whole, and you need to look at your situation from a wider perspective and not just at the experience of pain itself.
  3. When you are having a full picture of your story and your pain, you can implement some strategies to learn how to retrain your brain and focus on doing the things that are important for you again. And with the help of an Allied Health Practitioner like an Osteopath, you can receive a tailored management plan that meets your needs and your situation.
  4. You must take control. You will be more in control when you understand your pain and are actively involved in the pathway to your recovery which will need to include some strategies, planning and learning.

To learn more about pain and what to do about it watch the short and easy to listen to video Understanding Pain in less than 5 minutes, and what to do about it!

Living with chronic or persistent pain can stop you from living life to the fullest.

 At Mana, we want to help you to move forward with your issue and focus on the things:

  That are important to you

  That make you happy and moving better again

If you want to know more information regarding the way we assist people suffering from chronic pain, click here.

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