When you first hurt yourself, known as acute pain, the focus of your Physio treatment will be to reduce the pain at that location using a barrage of techniques that we know will help. However once you have had pain over several months, known as chronic pain, things change considerably. The local area you first hurt, although still feeling painful, actually often has very little to do with why you feel that pain. This may sound very complicated, however, it is actually a survival evolution. Our brains develop a “protective” pain memory. Unfortunately this is often movement related, so exercises you did initially, in the acute phase, when the hurt area was letting you know it was first injured, often down the line can become pain causing, simply because the brain’s protective shield it trying to now stop you moving at all for fear maybe you might get hurt again, not because you have actually damaged anything.
Once an injury becomes chronic, it is so important your Physio helps you understand the neuroscience of what is going on. Understanding your fears regards the injury is essential. This may be fear of having pain, but equally could be based on things that have happened to friends who have the same pain, or fear of the impact the injury may have on your life and your ability to do things. Mood can also affect your pain; is life very stressful at the moment, are things all in a negative place? And fatigue can also impact. Understanding all these factors that can affect your pain is essential.
Then there is the fear of movement. Do you think “ I can’t move in that direction, that will cause my pain” or “I must move keeping a certain posture to avoid my pain” or “I must stop doing certain things to avoid my pain getting worse”
This is where your Physio and rehabilitative exercise comes in as treatment. You need to stop thinking about exercise in terms of muscles and joints and more about the nervous system and desensitising this. You are using exercise to alter your bodies bad memories of movement and pain, turning it into a positive. It is essential you understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, how it is helping to rewire the system, to progress slowly and with relatively little pain, to be able to discuss all your fears and concerns along the way so that you and your Physio form a team as you move forward towards your goals.
Chronic pain is a difficult and often disabling condition, requiring a high level of skill and understanding from your treating therapist. At Physiologix, all our team are highly experienced physios, who have been in the job and working in the field of chronic pain for years, all with a passion for further education and training. Call us any time to make a booking or if you have any questions.