Physiotherapy For Chronic Pain
What Is Pain?
Pain is an unpleasant sensation that occurs when specific nerves in the body known as nociceptors, detect tissue damage. They transmit this information to the brain via the spinal cord and in the brain, these signals are processed causing us to feel the sensation of pain. Pain is a subjective sensation; it can vary from person to person with each individual experiencing pain differently.
Types Of Pain
Short-term pain is known as acute pain, it can range from mild to severe excruciating pain and may last anything from minutes to several weeks. Pain that continues for longer than 3 months is known as chronic pain.
Why Do We Feel Pain?
Acute pain serves as a type of alarm to alert us to tissue damage, infection, or other injury. It helps to limit damage to the body and can force us to rest and recover if it is necessary. For example, a person with a fractured leg will usually not be able to bear weight on the injured leg due to the extreme sensations of pain provoked when trying, and the pain in this case is useful, forcing us to rest until the bone has repaired itself.
To protect the body, humans have a withdrawal reflex, which enables us to respond rapidly to any changes in the environment; for example, touching a very hot object. If we put our finger on a hot surface, we will automatically pull our hand away to prevent further damage. This is known as the reflex arc, a special type of neural circuit where sensory, motor and relay neurons protect the body from potentially harmful stimuli, such as severe temperature change. The reflex action is a rapid, involuntary response that is processed in the spinal cord rather than in the conscious part of the brain. It causes our muscles to instantly contract and pull away from anything harmful. The unpleasant sensation of pain occurs after the initial reflex action, once the brain has processed the information. In both scenarios mentioned, the pain is useful, however, when pain persists for extended periods such as in chronic pain – it often appears to serve no useful purpose.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is persistent. It may be felt continuously or at intervals but persists beyond the recovery period of an illness or surgery and can be apparently out of proportion to any observable disease or injury. It may occur alongside a chronic health condition, such as arthritis, although sometimes the underlying cause itself is not clear.
This type of pain is complex, it is rarely an isolated issue and has a considerable impact on the quality of life. Chronic pain is associated with mood disorders, poor sleep patterns and a loss of independence, all of which can negatively impact work and social life. This complex problem ultimately requires complex treatment, to help patients manage the condition and to establish good self-management patterns. Pain is processed in the brain and is linked to our emotions, how we are feeling has an effect on pain, if we are upset, anxious, depressed or angry, the pain experienced is likely to be worse. However, if we are feeling positive, the symptoms are likely to be easier to manage.
What Types Of Disorders Are Associated With Chronic Pain?
Frequently cited types of chronic pain include neuropathic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, post-surgical pain, and chronic back and neck pain.
Treatment For Chronic Pain
Treatment for chronic pain-related disorders typically involves a multidisciplinary approach, including physiotherapy, pain management clinicians, psychologists/therapists and other health professionals. Physiotherapy is generally considered to be an integral part of any type of management program for chronic pain. Other types of treatment may include:
- Nerve Blocks
- Pain Relief Medication
- Psychological Therapy
- TENS Therapy
The Benefits of Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy for chronic pain-related conditions is a fundamental component of any management plan for individuals living with chronic pain. Being in constant pain can induce feelings of anxiety and depression and likewise feeling depressed and anxious can intensify any painful symptoms, creating a vicious cycle that is often difficult to break. Regular physiotherapy can help to improve the quality of life and to break the chronic pain/depression cycle.
ProPhysiotherapy – Our Services
ProPhysiotherapy takes a holistic approach to the body, addressing symptoms as well as taking into consideration individual circumstances, lifestyle, and habits to devise an individually tailored management program for use in the clinic and at home, that aims to control painful symptoms.
This typically includes specific exercises, movements, and stretches to improve mobility and fitness and reduce painful symptoms. Hands-on manipulation and soft tissue massage can help to soothe and relieve pain, whilst improving circulation and flexibility and relieving tension and spasms.
Our team of physiotherapists can also offer education and useful information to people living with a chronic pain disorder, helping them to understand the cause of the pain, how it may impact their lives, anything that may potentially aggravate symptoms and any other useful techniques that can help to improve symptoms, such as better posture.
Breathing techniques, relaxation and mindfulness may also help to reduce stress or lift a low mood and subsequently cope with pain in a better way. Other treatments such as hot and cold presses may also help to alleviate symptoms and even rest may be part of the prescribed treatment if the pain is the result of an injury or an overuse disorder.
For more information on our services and how we can help in the management of chronic pain disorders, get in touch today.