It is estimated that somewhere around 43% of the UK population experiences chronic pain. That’s roughly 28 million people!
Chronic pain is one of the leading causes of absence from work, and is estimated to cost the NHS upwards of £1 billion a year.
What is chronic pain and what’s causes it?
Chronic pain is pain that persists beyond the reasonable expected recovery time of an injury. It is caused by neurological changes that lead to what is known as central sensitisation rather than a lack of healing or recovery from your injury. Put simply, these changes can result in the body's pain threshold being reduced to the point where things that shouldn't be painful become painful and things that are slightly painful become very painful. You may be fully recovered from your injury itself, but still experience the pain of it. Sometimes the pain even worsens as time goes on...
Clearly chronic pain is something you want to avoid if at all possible. But for those that suffer from chronic pain, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it doesn’t seem that way at all!
Here are a few ways you can actively try to reduce your pain, rather than using medication or just waiting and trying to sit it out. These principals can also be applied to most pains/injuries to help prevent them from descending in to chronic pain.
So, what can you do?
1) Contrary to popular belief, it is almost always beneficial to get active when you're experiencing chronic pain. Our natural response to pain is to rest and stop using the part of you that hurts. However, this can actually have the opposite effect to what you want. A number of studies have shown that activity, no matter how little, does have a positive effect on pain. In the short term this occurs because exercise causes an increase in pain threshold. In the long term your neurological system will adapt to the repeated bouts of exercise to increase the threshold permanently.
Starting small and simple, with exercises like walking, is normally the best way to begin. Then progressing to body weight exercises, for example squats, and incorporating stretching will further the benefits.
2) The second proactive method of reducing chronic pain is meditation. Meditation has been shown to be, over an extended period of time, at least as effective as medication when it comes to reducing not only chronic pain, but anxiety and depression also.
When I say meditation, I don't mean contorting your legs underneath yourself and chanting a mantra, humming a way to your hearts content. Simple mindfulness exercises, which you can find on YouTube and downloadable apps, are more than enough to work. Spending 10-15 minutes a day has proven to be enough to be effective. My personal favourite way to do this is with the Calm app on my iPhone. Just follow the instructions. It couldn't be easier!
3) Finally I would suggest seeking help from an Osteopath or other qualified health professional. We work with patients experiencing chronic pain every day, particularly those suffering from chronic lower back pain and achieve good results. But this is not all we can treat, the same principals we apply to lower back pain can be applied to any joint in the body.
Chronic pain doesn’t have to be a burden. Sometimes seeking advice from a health professional can help set you on the right path. Any health professional worth there salt should help direct you to the best treatment modality and sometimes towards other professionals to help give the best possible care.
So there you have it, three ways to help you deal with chronic pain. If you have any questions please feel free to ask us via Email, our social media pages or come along to the clinic! We would always recommend seeking advice from a qualified health professional, as the advice given above may not be suitable for all patients and should can be tailored if/when necessary to suit each individual person.
If you are experiencing any musculoskeletal pain, we'd be happy to help you recover! Call 02083047237 to book an appointment today.