Written By: Oxenford Physiotherapist, Annabel White.
Pain affects 1 in 5 Australian’s and is the 3rd most costly health problem (after cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal problems). Between 50-80% of people with pain are under treated and can lead to significant human suffering. Pain is complicated and unfortunately, because it can’t be seen, it is often dismissed or ignored.
Pain is our bodies way of protecting itself from harm and/or further damage and to promote healing. When pain persists, our body starts to learn this pain. Just like learning to ride a bike or throw a ball with your non-dominant hand the more you practice the better you get. The same is true for your pain system, the more it produces pain, the more efficient it becomes at producing pain and pain signals can be set off without warning and your pain system becomes stuck in a state of high alert. you will find that you need to do less and less to trigger pain or pain may appear for no reason at all.
All pain is real, just because there is no tissue damage, or the area has healed it doesn’t mean there isn’t any pain. When pain persists for longer than three months and is no longer serving its healing purpose it is deemed chronic pain.
The good news is this pain can be unlearnt. While it isn’t easy and takes a bit of work, there are steps you can take to help decrease your pain.
Understand YOUR Pain
Pain is unique to everyone, by working closely with your healthcare team you can start you understand pain processes in the body and how they relate to you. It is complex and at times a bit confusing, but by having open conversations with your healthcare professional they can help you understand and learn.
Lee et al., 2016 completed a study that found people who understood pain biology after completing a series of pain education sessions had an average 45% decrease in pain at 12months compared to those who didn’t. While pain is a complex body function- understanding why it is there and how pain is produced will help you manage it.
Refine the Pain Process
Because pain is learnt in the nervous system, you can start to complete different training and activities to help, refine and redefine how your nervous system and brain perceives the part of your body that is in pain.
Perception of our body and pain can cause our pain processes to be heightened, reconfiguring how our body perceives movement and the painful part of our body is a step forward towards unlearning your pain.
Load the Body
By setting attainable goals and then minimising pain while completing tasks that will help you achieve your goals. Safe movement experiences are created within the neural pathways creating positive adaption. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen overnight, but by working with your healthcare professional they can take you through a personalised step by step process to help you feel strong and fit for purpose.
Pain is overwhelming, confusing, and defeating. It can consume our lives and feel like there is no end. By speaking to your trusted healthcare professional they can help you lead a life that isn’t limited by pain, it’s not easy, but it is worth it.
Book an appointment with Annabel White HERE.
Bagg MK, Wand BM, Cashin AG, et al. Effect of Graded Sensorimotor Retraining on Pain Intensity in Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2022;328(5):430–439. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.9930
Wand BM, Catley MJ, Rabey MI, et al. Disrupted Self-Perception in People With Chronic Low Back Pain. Further Evaluation of the Fremantle Back Awareness Questionnaire. The Journal of Pain. 2016;17(9):1001-1012. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2016.06.003.
Lee H, McAuley JH, Hübscher M, Kamper SJ, Traeger AC, Moseley GL. Does changing pain-related knowledge reduce pain and improve function through changes in catastrophizing? Pain. 2016 Apr;157(4):922-930. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000472. PMID: 26761387.
Butler D. S. & Moseley G. L. (2003). Explain pain. Noigroup Publications.
Some of the information above was acquired in the Explain Pain MasterSessions 2022