Southwest Physical Therapy is so very aware of the sad fact that one out of every five Americans is affected by chronic body pain. That is a great deal of our sister and brother Americans! This leads to depression, anxiety, stress, desperation, addiction to painkillers, restricted mobility, a very poor quality of life, and the list goes on and on. It negatively affects everything from our relationships with every single person in our life to the economy. So many work days are lost to it, and its annual medical cost is closer to the trillion-dollar mark than it is to the half-a-billion-dollar one. Notwithstanding the range of available treatments for it, it has been shown that well over half of chronic pain patients are not receiving proper medical treatment for it. Southwest Physical Therapy wants to share with you the following five tips to help you be free of pain and keep your body healthy; they can and should be applied immediately to your daily routine:
#1.) Educate Yourself As Much As Possible About Chronic Pain
The very first thing we Americans tend to do when we receive a diagnosis or are curious to learn more about something in this age of information and technology is that we get on the Internet and start Googling. It should be no different after receiving a diagnosis of chronic pain, because knowledge is power and knowing as much as we can about something that affects us so powerfully so much becomes a must. That is why Southwest Physical Therapy’s first tip to you is to educate yourself as much as you can regarding chronic pain and its causes and treatments, etc. Because the more you know about it and understand it, the more and better you can deal with it. The most common understanding of pain is that it is an unpleasant sensation associated with tissue damage or injury. It has been proven over and over again that chronic pain patients – those with pain that persists beyond three months – demonstrate healing of most of their tissues, even in their spinal disc structures. Hence, a presentation made by a couple of researchers who state that “Upon perception of a threat, the brain makes a decision called Pain,” has been said to be a more precise description of pain. The nervous system and the brain become much more sensitive with the persistent presence of pain that has been found to raise the level of ‘high alert’ in our body. Once the nervous system and the brain are in such a sensitive mode due to pain itself, pain sensations can be triggered by them merely with our thought of pain or by our reading the word ‘pain’. That’s very deep and you must educate yourself to best understand it. Please watch the YouTube video “Understanding Pain in Less Than 5 Minutes and What to Do About It” if you wish a more in-depth explanation to learn more about these concepts.
#2.) Choose a Medical Team Rich in Expertise and Experience
As soon as you start educating yourself about chronic pain and have a better understanding about yours, you must search for the right team of health professionals that will help you learn how to manage your pain symptoms effectively and to regain control over your life. Choose a primary care doctor or pain specialist (physiatrist) who will partner you with the right physical therapist. Verify that your team provides proven treatments (evidence-based) that reduce the sensitivity of your nervous system. It is very important that you understand the reality that results require you to commit to at least three months of treatment care in order to effectively calm down your sensitive nervous system. Impatient patients who quickly shop around from one practitioner to another seeking a quick miracle fix so rarely if ever achieve successful long-term pain management.
#3.) Enrich Your Support & Social Network, Not the Opposite
Chronic pain patients often transform into introverts who begin to avoid social gatherings and even withdraw from their own family members and loved ones. Chronic pain can even lead to unemployment. This increasing social isolation worsens the symptoms of depression and anxiety that caused the introversion in the first place. Thus, you must become proactive in combating what would certainly become an otherwise lose-lose situation if you allow it to become one by continuing with the introvert attitude! Go ahead and locate a local support group to free your feelings and experiences by sharing them with them. Find an exercise buddy-buddy or join a walking group to help you have a reason to get out of the house and to get on the move. Find relaxation and even enjoyment by hosting a craft/game night right at your home. Get yourself a dog – they naturally are great therapy animals who with good reason are called Man’s Best Friend. And never forget that you are not alone and that you do not have to fight your chronic pain solo – by your lonesome.
#4.) Keep Busy and Active
Chronic pain patients often use the terms “bad day” or “good day” to distinguish how their chronic pain is on a particular day, how well they’re managing their pain and how they’re completing their daily routine on that day. They go on to explain that a “bad day” often refers to waking up to a day where their chronic pain is at its worst, where they begin their day by struggling to even get out of bed, because they woke up feeling like they’re in a horrible fog. On these “bad days” the alarm system is set off by their nervous system even with the lowest levels of activity. These are the days in which most chronic pain patients are compelled to reduce their overall physical activity for the day and often prefer to just stay bedridden for that entire day.
While a healthy period of rest is an important protective measure for acute pain, it can flip to become harmful for chronic pain patients. Prolonged sedentary inactivity usually results in atrophied muscles and the loss of muscle strength and endurance, osteoporosis, and decreased cardiovascular function. When a “bad day” is in effect, try your hardest to take a brisk 10-minute walk. Aerobic exercise in moderation produces an immediate post-exercise reduction in pain as well.
Inactivity even affects the brain, according to the book “Pain Neuroscience Education: Teaching People About Pain”. Each body part is mapped in a specific part of the brain in a healthy individual. For instance, the map of the right arm suddenly becomes fuzzy in the brain when an injury occurs to the right arm and the patient places that arm in a sling to rest. The brain’s response to this is to increase pain perception to the right arm. The brain map clears up and the signal for increased pain perception stops once the patient removes the sling and begins to use the right arm as before.
#5.) Graded Activity
To combat the effects of prolonged rest, a safe choice for chronic pain patients is graded activity. Overload that may set off the alarm system and plunge the patient into another “bad day” is reduced by graded activity programs that introduce small doses of exercises that also stimulate the nervous system. Physical therapists in particular are highly skilled in helping chronic pain patients identify their starting baseline, setting goals with a realistic time frame and determining the proper amount of graded progression. The physical therapist instructs in proper posture and exercise form while monitoring the patient’s tolerance of each new dosage of exercises. Chronic pain patients generally need to commit to a minimum of three times per week for at least 8-10 weeks for safe and gradual activity progression. Choose a graded activity approach to reduce the intensity and frequency of those “bad days” and watch yourself regain some control over your life.
Follow these 5 tips to manage your chronic pain. However, if your aches, pains and discomfort are not lessening because your chronic pain is not responding to simple home interventions, then it’s time for you to find a world-class physical therapy clinic such as Southwest Physical Therapy. Get back to being you by visiting us TODAY.