Most of us will experience physical pain at some point in our lives. Whether from cuts, falls or bumps, pain serves an important purpose in alerting us that something is wrong. Simply, it’s a symptom of an illness or injury. Usually it will develop quickly and doesn’t last for long.
On the other hand, chronic pain is a prolonged experience of pain that can significantly impact on a person’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Today there are approximately 3.37 million Australians living with chronic pain which impacts every facet of their lives. Of these individuals, 10 percent will have severe disability and dysfunction due to their chronic pain conditions.
What is Chronic pain?
Chronic or persistent pain is pain that lasts for more than 3 months, or in many cases, beyond normal healing time. It is different from acute pain, such as pain from an injury which develops quickly and doesn’t usually last for long, and therefore requires a different approach to treatment. No one really wants pain, and this is understandable as it is an unpleasant experience. But the unpleasantness is what makes pain effective at protecting you and alerting you to danger.
When pain persists, it is difficult to see how it can be serving any useful purpose. When pain persists beyond normal healing time it can be due to complex changes within the nervous system. Better results managing chronic pain come from a greater understanding of how the nervous system works and why sometimes it continues to produce pain even after no apparent injury, or after many years.
There are different types of chronic pain, and it is a complex condition. No two people will have the same experience. Pain can range from mild to severe and is experienced on most days. Sometimes there is no apparent cause of chronic pain.
What causes chronic pain?
There are different types of chronic pain, and sometimes there may not be any apparent cause. Some of the common causes of chronic pain can include:
- Old injuries or surgeries that have not healed properly, muscle strains and sprains and repetitive stress injuries
- Illnesses or conditions such as cancer, arthritis or osteoporosis
- Other health conditions, including endometriosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease
Treating Chronic Pain
Our Physiotherapists have significant experience working with people with chronic pain. Our therapists work with clients from a variety of ages and backgrounds, with the aim of diminishing pain, improving quality of life where possible and preventing acute and sub-acute painful conditions developing into chronic pain.
Our therapists take a biopsychosocial approach, working as a coordinated multidisciplinary team to support clients. Where possible, we try to empower clients with the knowledge and skills necessary to self-manage their pain.
Treatment methods and modalities
A range of interventions is usually used to treat or address chronic pain. These may include:
- Gentle pain free exercise programs to improve mobility and strengthen muscles
- Joint manipulation and mobilisation to reduce pain and stiffness
- Muscle re-education to improve control
- Airway clearance techniques and breathing exercises
- Soft tissue mobilisation (massage)
- Acupuncture and dry needling
- Assistance with use of aids splints crutches walking sticks and wheelchairs to help you move around.
- Mindfulness exercises
- Re-engagement with meaningful activities
If you’re not sure where to start to address chronic pain you or a loved one is experiencing, an assessment by a health professional with experience in this area is strongly encouraged