So what can you do about persistent pain?
Ask yourself if you could have some other biopsychosocial factors contributing to your persistent pain to help you better understand why you are still experiencing this pain well past the predicted timeframes.
Seek the help of a Musculoskeletal or Sports Physician, who can facilitate the appropriate tests to discover any physical causes of your pain. They will often perform blood tests to rule our systemic infection or inflammatory processes, nutritional or vitamin deficiencies and also order any radiological imagine that will give the medical team a clear understanding of what is going on physically in the body. Don’t be alarmed if this uncovers a) some tissue damage or b) nothing at all. Remember, persistent pain is multifaceted and almost always due to how the brain and nervous system is responding to the pain.
Stay active- many, many studies have shown the benefits of exercise in both persistent pain and also emotional disorders such as stress or depression. Targeted exercise, for example, those prescribed by your physiotherapist, help to address lack of movement or altered movement patterns that are putting a strain on sensitive structures like nerves, discs, and ligaments.
Mental imagery can be used to teach the brain that movements can be performed “pain-free”. The fear of movement or avoiding movement can actually increase disability and increase the risk of re-injuring the body part. Use meditative techniques to mentally envision yourself performing certain movements without pain, that you normally struggle with. This will actually help to change the way the nerves respond to such movements.
Rest from aggravating activities but perform activities that are pain free. Try not to think “I’ve got a bad back, I can’t do that”, change your mindset to think of the things that your body CAN do. Ask your family, workmates or friends for help performing tasks that you do struggle with, and find ways of changing the way you perform your daily activities if they are becoming difficult to do. There is no point getting upset about not being able to clean the floors because it hurts you back when you’ve got a teenage child playing video games sitting in the other room! When you feel like you have support, you will be less likely to become stressed due to the disabilities you experience during injury healing.
Use pharmaceutical help to break the pain cycle. Medications can help to block the pain messages travelling around the nervous system. You should be able to gradually decrease the medication you are using when you are successful in addressing the multifaceted nature of your pain. Seek advice from your doctor about the right medication for you, keeping in mind that unless you have an acute injury or a chronic inflammatory condition, anti-inflammatory medications may not be the correct medication to properly address your pain.
Exercise freely and to the best of your ability. Find a type of exercise that you can perform pain free, for example, Pilates, swimming, walking etc. The benefits of exercise for persistent pain has been well-documented and it has also been found that 30 minutes of moderate activity per day is equivalent to taking low dose anti-depressants for mood elevation and general wellbeing! Exercising and getting stronger and fitter will break the cycle of persistent painà inactivityà weaknessà instabilityàfunctional disabilityà further pain.
Continue life as normally as possible and don’t focus on the negatives. Keep being aware of the abilities you have and adapt to what you can and can’t do at the present time. If you have identified that stress, poor pain beliefs, sleep disturbances or anxiety are contributing to your persistent pain, it is very important to address these emotional barriers to recover by involving healthcare providers skilled in this area.
Consider lifestyle changes if other factors are contributing to the pain, cut out stress, caffeine, smoking and alcohol. Eat a healthy and balanced diet and try to increase activity levels.
To sum up, persistent pain is multifaceted, complex and individual and there is no single recipe approach to getting rid of it. Consider every single aspect of your life and how it is forming the pain situation you are experiencing. If you have been experiencing persistent pain, it’s obvious to see that you should be seeking help from a range of professionals, from your GP, to your physiotherapist, to your counsellor and your personal trainer. Once you have identified potential causative factors, make the positive changes and you will not look back!
At Q Pilates, we are passionate about helping facilitate your recovery from persistent pain, through education, exercise and support because we see how this issue affects our clients so deeply and we can see the benefits that understanding this puzzle has on their lives.
Rattaporn et al (2014). A prospective, cluster-randomized controlled trial of exercise program to prevent low back pain in office workers. European Spine Journal. 786-793
George et al (2011). Brief psychosocial education, not core stabilization, reduced incidence of low back pain: results from the Prevention of Low Back Pain in the Military (POLM) cluster randomized trial. BMC Medicine. P128.
Video Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b8oB757DKc