This is the second part of our two-part series on the fundamentals of pain. Last month we looked at what pain is and how it can show up in our bodies. While this month we will explore further how to deal with pain.
Dealing with Pain
As a general rule, education about pain which you may be experiencing, as well as determining your diagnosis, can help you to better deal with pain. It will enable you to understand the process of what is going on, and inform you of the intentions of treatment involved.
Physical, mental and emotionally behavioural modifications and strategies can also help to reduce chronic pain as well as any disability associated with it.
Some examples include adequate and restful sleep, resuming daily routines, returning to physical activity, improving diet, and seeking help from a health care practitioner.
There are many other strategies available that can be very helpful for chronic pain, especially when coupled together.
A worthwhile strategy and great first point of call to help manage chronic pain might be to trial and engage in meditation, which can be helpful in dealing with pain from an emotional and mental standpoint, knowing that pain has a definite psychological influence.
We have released an article regarding “meditation and pain” (link here) which describes further how this strategy can influence chronic pain in a positive way.
Other Interesting Info About Pain
As mentioned above, your pain experience can be dependent on many things such as the context you’re in.
For example, have you ever noticed your pain experience alters when you go on holiday? Then when you return, whether that is back to a busy and stressed routine or resuming your regular routine of certain movement behaviours, does your pain return or even worsen?
Or ever notice your fear of pain increases your sensitivity to pain at the dentist?
Or even with children, when they fall or hurt themselves they will often look at their parents after a fall and before they cry, as they are receiving feedback from around them, considering the meaning of their fall, to either confirm or negate an experience of pain or judge the severity of that experience.
Pain is a message to protect you!
As mentioned before, pain is also a protective mechanism, the brain wants to protect its body, and it will do so by giving you pain. When it gives you pain, it is basically saying, ‘stop! you’ve overdone something here’ or ‘you’ve gone too far’ or ‘I’m going to give you pain until I feel that you are safe again!’
The brain requires change from you- to either rest, change or modify something in order to avoid being hurt further or from being hurt again.
This could be to correct and modify any poor movement habits or postures that may be loading a particular area of your body, or to completely remove yourself from a potentially pain provoking or harmful scenario.
An example is at the gym, when you surpass your body’s tolerance which leads to discomfort and pain. The ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality doesn’t necessarily serve you. Generally speaking, if there is pain, there is no gain at all.
Modifying, changing or stopping when you are receiving signals of discomfort and pain (remember it’s a warning!) allows the brain to receive better feedback from the body. This allows the body to function far better overall- as we spoke about in the last article- the more pain information the brain receives, the more sensitive the brain and spinal cord can get. Which is how chronic pain eventuates.
Another aspect regarding pain is suppressing it with pain medication. Often people take medication to feel better- ie. have no pain and then erroneously perceive that as being fixed. Often this can be a big mistake, as it can mislead your nervous system!
In this case, many return to the activity or the movement that overloaded and created stress on their body in the first place, to then find out that once the pain medication subsides, they often feel even worse than before.
Pain medication only suppresses or numbs your pain experience- it’s usually taken to provide mental relief from the pain.
This said, medication which provides this mental relief can often be a short term mechanism to reset your system, in order to deal with a chronic pain injury. It can certainly have a place in dealing with pain, but it usually only provides relief in the short term.
If you decide to use pain medication, it is recommended that you still give your body relative rest, allowing time to heal and to refrain from any aggravating factors.
We would recommend that pain medication be used coupled with an assessment from a musculoskeletal therapist or GP.
To conclude, pain is designed to serve you, as pain is merely an alarm system to let you know something is not well in your system.
It also acts as a protective mechanism to prevent you from further hurt or damage. It is your body’s request for change and to take reasonable action.
Pain shouldn’t necessarily be perceived as something negative. Easier said than done- it is often better to be proactive when pain occurs rather than be reactive.
By providing you with these fundamental aspects, our aim to have given you some clarity on what pain is, as well as showing how complex pain can be by describing its non-physical variables.
Learning about pain helps change how you think about your problem and can even help you start planning out your own personal recovery strategies.
We will be revisiting this topic later in the year, and going into more detail as to how pain can relate specifically to the Spinal Symmetry model of treatment, including it’s significance while using the Dynamic Therapy.