Pain Awareness Month
September is International Pain Awareness Month and one in five Australians experience chronic pain. Therefore it is fitting to address the growing problem in Australia and around the world. This month, various organisations come together to raise public awareness about pain and pain management. It’s important for those living with pain to know that technology, research, understanding and pain management techniques are at the forefront of public awareness. Quite often, pain is an invisible illness and it has a great impact on individuals and their families.
What is Pain?
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.
Pain is often considered a warning system for our body and helps to draw attention to a body part that has been injured or that is in danger. It reminds us that whatever tissue is damaged – needs to be protected. Furthermore it aids in repairing the injuries we do acquire.
There are three main categories of pain: acute, chronic and cancer pain.
Acute pain lasts for a short time and we have all experienced it from time to time. A cut, a burn, a strain, we experience the pain then heal and the pain goes away. This is normal while chronic pain is quite the opposite.
Chronic pain may last for more than three months or beyond normal expected healing time following surgery, trauma or a health condition. Although this type of pain can be a symptom of other disease, it can also be a disease in its own right. Sometimes chronic pain can be seen as invisible or a mystery as it can exist without some clear reason.
Cancer pain can occur in patients with early stage and advanced disease, and in cancer survivors as a severe and debilitating side-effect of treatment.
Understanding Chronic Pain
When pain is persistent or long lasting for weeks, months or years especially after an illness or injury then it is considered a chronic illness. Doctors often define chronic pain as any pain that lasts for 3 to 6 months or more. It can interfere with your daily life and coping with a chronic illness can be difficult but getting the right help, support and education can be beneficial.
Sometimes pain continues beyond its initial warning system stage. Even after an injury has healed and acute pain becomes persistent or chronic. In some situations the problem that caused the acute pain, such as arthritis, continues and this explains the ongoing nature of the pain. However, there are also times when pain continues despite a resolution of the initiating event. We know when pain has persisted for more than three months it is no longer a straightforward warning system, but instead involves complex changes in the nervous system and brain. Unfortunately, this condition is not uncommon, with 1 in 5 Australians experiencing chronic pain.
Getting back to being you
Chronic pain is a very unpleasant experience and persistent pain can lead to feelings of frustration, sadness and isolation. These feelings can be exacerbated as sometimes the pain can be felt misunderstood or not believed.
The expressions “ taking over my life” and “being controlled by pain” are often used by patients to describe their pain. Many find themselves at their wits-end trying to find ways to relieve their pain. What patients need is respect and understanding of their situation and the assistance to overcome the challenges of living with pain and finding a way back to lead a fulfilling life.
The human body was designed to move and be active. So when chronic pain causes the lack of physical movement – a host of other health problems may arise. Thus making the recovery process more difficult and lengthy. There is a natural tendency to avoid movement and to be over-protective.
Due to muscles being inactive, they can quickly deteriorate and the joints become stiff which can cause increased pain and reduced bodily function.
It’s important to be physically active as healthy movement will ensure that chronic pain isn’t exacerbated by immobility. You will benefit by keeping your muscle toned, regaining your range of motion within joints and releasing tension within the body.
Try some of the following exercises to keep active:
- Take short walks regularly
- Swimming allows for movement without the impact on joints
- Heated pools have additional benefit for painful conditions
- Gentle yoga stretches or Tai Chi can assist in keeping muscles and joints active
- Move about every half an hour and avoid sitting for an extended period of time
- Gradually increase your exercise regime and be realistic about what is achievable
What can we do to help a person in chronic pain?
People who suffer with pain need support from those who understand. It’s important to recognize that pain disorders come with many emotions and other diseases. Emotions such as anger, sadness and hopelessness. Suffering from chronic pain is hard both mentally and physically and it isn’t all in the head.
Unfortunately chronic pain involves the entire family, not just the sufferer. It is important to encourage a pain sufferer to stay as active as physically possible and to keep them relaxed as stress relief plays an important role in pain management.
Most importantly, talk with them. Ask them how their pain is today. Talking about pain and pain disorders with friends, families and medical professionals can help with feelings of isolation.
Chiro & Sports Med
Our chiropractors at Chiro & Sports Med are committed to providing chiropractic solutions to address your unique needs, whether you are experiencing a pinched nerve, bulging disc, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, headaches or even muscular tightness and tension. You may be searching for pain relief after an accident or experiencing injury. You may suffer from a specific condition like chronic back pain or a spinal condition. Our mission is to help reduce or eliminate pain and to prevent future problems and injury. We are here to improve your quality of life, your well-being and your ability to live an active healthy lifestyle.