Many of us experience an episode of pain in our lifetimes. Some of us experience several pains in different body parts, while others have what is known as chronic pain. By definition, chronic pain is longstanding in nature and refers to any pain experience which has lasted for more than three months.
I spend every day talking to patients about ‘their pain’, because pain is very specific to the individual. Everyone has a different pain experience, which is determined by many factors. Some of those factors include the context of the injury (where, when, how it occurred), whether you have had the same injury before, the information you are given about your injury from day one onwards and how much you already know about the injury from the media or talking to friends/family.
To feel pain, your brain must receive a message from the injured tissues, which is then processed in the brain and pain is the result. Pain doesn’t always have to be the result. However, for people with chronic pain, it almost always is and this is one of the reasons why the pain doesn’t go away. When you are injured, if you don’t know what your diagnosis or prognosis is, and you don’t understand why it hurts, then it can be very scary. For example, if you have hurt your back lifting something heavy (and up to 80% of the population experience back pain at some stage during their lives), then you may become scared to lift anything heavy again. However, if you know what’s wrong and you know how to look after your back when you lift, then your fear will reduce. Early pain management is vital to your long term recovery after an injury. It is important that you get good advice from a qualified health professional. Physiotherapists are very experienced in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of injuries, particularly if you have hurt a bone, joint, muscle, ligament, tendon or nerve.
One of the key parts of your recovery from a musculoskeletal injury is to get the injured part moving ‘normally’ again. People with chronic pain often change the way they move to stop it hurting, but often this makes recovery more difficult. It is good to remember that not all ‘hurt’ equals harm, and not all pain equals tissue damage. Again, if you understand your pain and why it hurts, then you can manage it better.
Here are some great explanations and resources to help you understand and manage your pain.
If you would like help to manage your pain or injury, speak to one of our physiotherapists.