My thoughts on pain
A little about my background – I have worked as a Sports Chiropractor for the past 8 years. When I first graduated from Uni I injured my back and this led to a chronic problem for about 3 years. I deal with patients in pain on a daily basis. Due to my experience as both practitioner and someone who has experienced chronic pain, I am passionate about helping those in similar circumstances. However reading the literature I am frustrated with the lack of understanding around pain. Below are my current thoughts on both pain and strategies to overcome chronic problems.
- Pain is a normal human experience and is highly complex: Pain is essential for our survival. A nice way to think about pain is as an alarm system. The alarm system warns us of danger, ideally when that danger ceases, the alarm system should turn off. Pain can be complex and difficult to understand. This is akin to a hypersensitive alarm system, where the alarm goes off when it detects non-threatening movements. This is ultimately what happens with people in chronic pain. The alarm system is overly sensitive and pain signals emerge when there is no apparent danger. In an acute setting pain is highly valuable, however in a chronic setting pain is a distorted signal that does not indicate weather the danger is real.
- Chronic pain is a health issue, not an issue in the tissue: When pain persists longer then the tissue healing time, we may define it as chronic pain. This is when we need to stop viewing the problem as a local problem and start thinking of it as a health problem. We must view these issues holistically and individually.
- Fix the low hanging fruit first: When dealing with pain we should first take care of the low hanging fruit. This may mean a need to improve sleep – length or quality, nutrition or your mental and social state. It could even mean moving a little more. These are often forgotten aspects of health, which play a large role in managing our pain. Research has shown time and time again that sleep, nutrition, movement and psychosocial factors all correlate with pain.
- Learn to move: Although the evidence isn’t clear on the mechanism, there appears to be high value in teaching our bodies to move in different ways to help manage pain. This can be done in many different ways. Choose something simple that will not provoke symptoms too much and implement each day. This could be practicing 2 different yoga positions each day, learning a martial art or just working on balance. It just needs to be something different and viewed and practiced as a skill.
- Develop strength: Like learning to move, getting stronger also seems to have a good impact on pain management. When we build strength we generate new muscles, strengthen the cartilage, ligaments and bones, which ultimately makes us more Although lifting weights may not be indicated early on in recovery it should be included at some point in the rehab process.
These strategies have helped me to manage my back pain. I welcome the opportunity to help you manage your pain.