CHRONIC PAIN By Dr Kieran Carlton (osteo)
Everybody suffers pain at some stage in their life. Usually it is minor and disappears within a few hours, days or even weeks.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always so simple and occasionally may last months, years or even the rest of our lives. This persistent pain can really eat away at us, get us down and have an impact on our mental health and relationships. The big question is, what can we do about it?
ACUTE VS CHRONIC PAIN
Acute pain occurs when a tissue in the body is injured and the pain settles within the normal healing time (usually less than 3-6 months). It plays an important role in notifying us that our body may need rest in order to recover properly. Although we may not appreciate the pain at the time, this pain is good and has a purpose.
Chronic pain occurs when the pain doesn’t ease within the injured tissue’s normal healing time. The pain can even continue on well after the injury has healed. This doesn’t mean that you’re bonkers, that “the pain’s all in your head” (I really hate when patients are told anything along those lines).
Chronic pain is a complicated pathological process, think of it as a fault in the wiring. It doesn’t serve a purpose like acute pain does. The regular nerve pathways don’t operate as they normally would and it becomes much easier to provoke a response in our pain system. Our nerves become ‘sensitised’. This means that we require much less stimulation than usual (maybe even none at all) before we feel pain.
Imagine the sensation of a hot shower when you are sunburnt compared to the same temperature shower when you aren’t. You will feel pain when sunburnt because your skin is sensitised.
HOW CHRONIC PAIN IMPACTS OUR LIVES
Chronic pain doesn’t just cause physical pain, there are a variety of ways that it influences our lives.
(M. Nicholas 2012)
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Our end goal is to improve the quality of our life. The pain might always be there but that doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy our time on the planet. Here are a few ways which we can better achieve this
- Engage a psychologist – Work together to build your toolbox of resources for handling negative feelings which are a common factor in chronic pain. They can help you identify and challenge unhelpful beliefs, as well as set achievable goals for the future.
- Osteopathy – Improving body function will help you return to a more active lifestyle and can also relieve pain.
- Diet plan – An improved diet will also help increase mood, give us more energy and in some cases can ease pain.
- Management plan – See your GP to organise a structured, multi-disciplinary approach for your chronic pain. This will also make treatment more affordable with a Medicare rebate if allied health practitioners are necessary.