This week we are discussing pain; what it is, why it can persist and things you can do to help manage it.

 

Pain is the body’s warning system and the brain makes pain when it concludes that your body tissues are in danger and you need to change what you are doing. There are sensors that detect changes in your body and the environment and send danger messages to the brain. The brain listens to the danger messages, weighs them up in the context of your situation and may or may not make pain.

Hence, pain is very subjective and how we perceive pain depends on a complex interaction between the nervous system, genetics, culture, thoughts and emotions, previous pain experiences, stress and what was happening in your life when pain started.

Chronic pain is pain that persists beyond the expected healing time of an injury, which is normally about three months. It affects 1 in 5 Australians (https://www.painaustralia.org.au/about-pain/painful-facts) and hence, it is important to understand pain; if not to help manage it yourself, then to support others who might be living with chronic pain.

 

When pain becomes chronic, pain is often no longer a reliable indicator of the severity of injury.  Danger sensing nerves send off the same danger signals as if there was a threat of injury or damage, when there is actually no threat. In this instance, other factors besides injury to the body tissues become very important in determining ‘how much it hurts’.

 

To reduce these signals, it’s important to find ways that help you calm down the central nervous system. Here are some pain management strategies and why they work:

 

  • Exercise leads to the release of endorphins and natural opioids, which reduce the sensation of pain, and boost your mood.

Exercise helps to:

-Increase pain tolerance.

-Keep joints lubricated and reduce stiffness.

-Build muscle and ensure you maintain strength to support joints.

-Promote blood flow and therefore ensure nutrients reach structures, such as the nerves and discs of the spine.

There is no one optimal type of exercise for chronic pain, however, a combination of aerobic, strength and flexibility training are recommended.

 


Chronic back pain is one of the most common forms of pain. These exercises help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, helping to increase the stability of the back and reduce pain symptoms.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviours related to pain, improve coping strategies, and put the discomfort in a better context. For example, you are more likely to have pain when the brain concludes that there is more evidence of danger to your body than there is evidence of safety to your body.

  • Deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relation are strategies to help relieve stress and reduce the experience of pain.

 

 

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are trained in exercise prescription for chronic pain conditions. AEPs can assist you with slowly pacing up your activity levels and provide you with education and reassurance that pain does not necessarily equal further injury.

 

For more information or to get help returning to the activities that you might be avoiding due to pain, contact the team at Longevity on 1300 964 002.

 

Written by Courtney Maher