Are you suffering chronic pain?
What actually is pain?
Pain is an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential injury. Specialised nerve cells called nociceptors are situated in various body tissues and serve to detect damaging or threatening stimuli. The nociceptor cell picks up or senses a stimulus and delivers a message to the brain where it is interpreted as pain. The act of nociception is not “pain”, rather, it is the brain that tells you “this is painful!!”
Why do we get pain?
Pain, though unpleasant serves a very important purpose. When we feel pain we must respond in a way that stops the painful stimulus and prevents further damage to ourselves. Pain will illicit a physical, emotional and behavioural response that we will remember – so that we don’t damage ourselves again!
Acute pain is generally a result of tissue damage or injury such as spraining your ankle. A sprained ankle often results in bruising, swelling and a lot of pain. The presence of this pain is our brain’s way of telling us to stop causing further damage by walking and allow the joint, ligaments, to heal without further damage. In the acute injury RICE principles may be applied; Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Depending on the severity of the sprain the damaged tissues may take up to 2-3 months to heal completely. However what happens when pain is still present beyond 3 months?
We often hear our patients refer to their pain as chronic in terms of pain intensity, however chronic actually refers to the time spent in pain, not the levels of pain. Chronic pain is generally classified as pain that has been present for longer than three months. When serious pathology has been ruled out, and all of the tissues appear to be healed, why are you still feeling pain?
Our current understanding is if acute pain transitions into chronic pain, neuroplastic changes in the nervous system and brain occur. That is, the way the nerves work or fire and the way the brain interprets these signals change, and pain is perceived.
Managing Chronic pain
It is understood that chronic pain is best managed with a multidisciplinary approach as there is generally more involved than purely the original injury itself. If you feel you may be suffering chronic pain, ask your General Practitioner about the Medicare subsidised “Chronic Disease Management”, formerly “Enhanced Primary Care” scheme, where your GP may set up an appropriate multidisciplinary care plan which can include osteopathic treatment from one of our 8 experienced Osteopaths at Blackburn Osteopathy.
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