Chronic or persistent pain is pain that continues beyond the normal time it takes for your body to heal itself following an injury.
Most soft tissue injuries will heal within several weeks, although it can take months to fully heal. If pain persists longer than 3 months following an injury, despite treatment or medication, it is described as chronic pain. Sometimes your pain can even come on without a history of injury.
Chronic pain can affect any part of your body, at any age and can also affect people with:
- back pain
- irritable bowel syndrome
What is pain?
Pain isn’t always a bad thing, it’s the way for our brain’s to tell us that something is wrong so that we can prevent further injury or harm to ourselves.
Your central nervous system is made up of your brain and the nerves inside your spine. They carry messages from your body to the brain, including signals that tell your brain you have pain somewhere. Your brain then works out how serious the source of the pain is and what the pain strength should be.
However, our brain’s sometimes don’t interpret these signals accurately. Pain from an injury, such as a pulled muscle should settle within 6-8 weeks but sometimes the brain continues to send out pain signals in the absence of injury or trauma to the body. This pain can be intense and often appears to come on for no obvious reason and it can be hard to stop these signals.
This makes chronic pain hard to understand. You may feel that you’re being told the pain is in your head or it isn’t real. It isn’t possible to know whose pain will be become chronic. We do know that people are more likely develop chronic pain during or after times of stress, a stressful life event or unhappiness.
What can help?
Physiotherapy can help you take back control by helping you to understand your pain and to treat the physical reaction your body is experiencing. Alongside physical treatment, some small changes can make a big difference to the management of pain. Here some things you might consider:
- Dealing with stress, depression or anxiety can help with chronic pain. When our bodies feel under threat, it produces stress hormones that can make us feel tense and anxious. As the body and brain perceives this pain as a threat and when this is persistent or chronic over time, our brain and body continues to respond to these signals which keeps the feeling of pain present.
- Learning to relax or to meditate can be hard when you’re in pain but this can help calm the stress of pain and help take your focus away from it.
- Keep moving. Even the smallest amount will make you feel better, ease your pain and it will also keep your muscles and joints strong. Your physiotherapist is able to help decide what exercise or exercises will help, how to perform them correctly and how to pace yourself. Hydrotherapy can be very beneficial as it can help support you and allow for slower controlled movements.
- Taking painkillers alongside a holistic appraoch to pain to more helpful then just taking painkillers to control the pain alone. In some cases, painkillers may not help with pain.
- Do things that bring you enjoyment, like being outside or with friends and family, this the most nautral painkiller.
The most effective approach to dealing with chronic pain is a holistic approach, health is a combination of physical and psychological and treating both alongside each other can help free you from chronic pain. Many of the partner clinics at PhysioNet Bristol can help you take control and understand the importance of treating you as a whole.See all clinics that provide Chronic pain