Unlike acute pain, which is sudden, sharp pain that alerts us of an injury, chronic pain is long-term, typically lasting at least 12 weeks. In most cases, this means that there is something off about our bodies that we need to address. There are any number of reasons we can experience chronic pain, from a medical condition such as arthritis to a habitual issue, such as slouching when we sit. In this blog, we will look at how physiotherapy can be used to address chronic pain.
The first issue with chronic pain is always the mentality of the patient. Unfortunately, it is far too common for people to try and just deal with their pain rather than see a medical professional. This is because of the fact that chronic pain often occurs very gradually, and people get used to it in a sense. The most worrying part of this mentality is the fact that it will usually result in people entering a downward spiral, where their pain causes them to becoming increasingly sedentary, which then causes their pain to take hold further, leading them to “rest” more, and so forth.
Confronting the Issue
As alluded to above, another major issue around treating chronic pain is that people believe rest can help. This is not the case. Chronic pain is usually the result of a gradual change within our body, such as the shape of our back changing over time based on how we sit; by the time the pain is severe enough for us to take note, our back has already changed shape, and we are in the habit of sitting a certain way. So while it may seem counter-intuitive and even intimidating to move the part of our body that is in pain, it is often the only way to deal with the root cause. A simple example is having a stiff ham string: our very first reaction is to stretch it, because you want it to loosen up. In the same way, in order to alleviate chronic pain, we need to confront the issue head on, which is what physiotherapy aims to do.
If we were to imagine for a moment that our bodies were represented by an employee, we can get a good understanding of the importance of physiotherapy in dealing with chronic pain. An employee who starts a new job is like a blank slate. Investing time in training the employee will mean that you can get them to work the way you want, and closely monitor their performance, eventually building them up as far as they can go. Sitting them down at a desk and leaving will mean that not only are they less likely to improve, they are far more likely to get lazy and lose their skills.
In the same way, our bodies need to be trained if we want to deal with chronic pain. This does not simply mean hitting the gym and staying fit. Sometimes our bodies need to be retrained, and physiotherapists work closely with their patient to identify not only what the issue is, but also what needs to be done to work around it or confront it. Of course this varies considerably on a case by case basis, which is why it is so important to work closely with professionals who understand every nitty-gritty detail about muscles & bones that people may not even be aware they have.
Many people can be put off the idea of physiotherapy because they know that it can be a long, difficult process. It is an unfortunate reality for many people however, and attempts to ignore this reality ultimately only hurt the patient. If you are experiencing chronic pain, there’s a good chance that physiotherapy is the best way for you to address it. While it may be tempting to look up a few easy exercises, there is no substitute for experience. Our bodies are complex things, and working closely with someone who understands us better than we understand ourselves will make our lives much easier in the long run.