CHRONIC PAIN: A General Overview and how Physiotherapy helps

Chronic pain can have a significant impact upon physical, emotional and social well-being of an individual. At some points in individual’s life, we all feel pain differently and no one can tell what somebody else’s pain is like. This can make it difficult to define and describe pain.

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain can be defined as ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage; or described in terms of such damage’. This is a widely used and accepted definition of both short-term acute pain and chronic pain.

Pain will usually become less severe as an injury or assault to soft tissues heals. However, chronic pain is different from typical pain. With chronic pain the body continues to send pain signals to the brain, even after an injury heals. This can last several weeks to years. Chronic pain can limit one’s mobility and reduce flexibility, strength, and endurance. This may make it challenging to get through daily tasks and activities.

Chronic pain refers to persistent pain for more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain can be devastating, making it difficult for individual to go to work, exercise, or even take a shower and dress one’s self. It interferes in day to day activities, and can also take an emotional toll on someone, undermining one’s self-esteem, causing depression, anxiety and frustration. Chronic pain may be steady or intermittent, can occur in nearly any part of your body, and feel different in the various affected areas.

Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be caused by many different factors. Age related conditions, Injuries and terminal illness. In some cases, however, people experience chronic pain without any prior injury. The exact causes of chronic pain without injury aren’t well understood. The pain may sometimes result from an underlying health condition, such as:
• Fibromyalgia: widespread pain in the bones and muscles
• Degenerative change of the spine (Osteoarthritis)
• Inflammatory bowel disease: a group of conditions that causes painful, chronic inflammation in the digestive tract
• Back pain (Spinal stenosis)
• Endometriosis: a painful disorder that occurs when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus
• Advance cancer
• Chronic fatigue syndrome: characterized by extreme, prolonged weariness that’s often accompanied by pain
• Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ): a condition that causes painful clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Prolonged poor posture
• Overweight poses excess strain on the back and knees
• Congenital condition (Scoliosis)
• Traumatic injury

Common symptoms of chronic pain
Pain generally is subjective, and individuals feels pain in different or diverse ways. Some describe it as mild, sharp, severe, throbbing etc. Sometimes pain is just one of many symptoms, which can also include but not limited to:
• Joint pain or aches
• Feeling very tired or easily fatigued
• Mood problems, including depression, anxiety, and irritability
• Not feeling hungry
• Trouble sleeping
• Weakness
• Lack of energy, stamina and flexibility due to decrease activity.

How Physiotherapy can help with chronic pain
Management of chronic pain involves a multi-disciplinary approach of which, physiotherapy is one. Chronic pain impacts not only on the physical, but also the emotional and psych-social well-being of an individual living with it.
Physiotherapists often see patients with chronic pain on individual basis and on referral. After a comprehensive assessment, your physiotherapist will also work with you to agree on a treatment plan that best suit you with the agreed set goals by both parties.
There are several and different ways a physiotherapist can help persons living with chronic pain.
1. Manual treatment (massage or soft tissue mobilization)
2. Postural corrections
3. Specific exercises

Call in at PCA for physiotherapist who will safely and cost-effectively support and guide you towards the best possible quality of life.

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