Recently I have had several patients come with common injuries related to their work but all with quite high levels of anxiety about these injuries and some interesting beliefs around what that injury might mean
While it is quite normal to be a bit concerned when you injure yourself, if this anxiety becomes focused on your injury over an extended period of time, it can actually get in the way of your recovery. Some of the beliefs were around the frustration and fear of never doing some of the pleasurable activities that they had enjoyed previously e.g. riding a bike, going to the gym. Others related to pain being a signal to stop doing what they were doing and that eventually they wouldn’t be able to work or do much at all because of the pain.
This short video explains why pain can hang around for long periods of time. The key point is that most tissues heal in 3-6mths and yet we may still feel ‘pain’. So where does it come from? Is it a tissue healing problem or a pain perception problem? Both produce a real experience of pain – it just may not be coming from where you think it is!
So, how did we approach treating these patients?
Firstly, realize that there are no silver bullets. Everyone’s pain is unique to them and their context. Unfortunately, there are no magic exercises or foolproof solutions (despite what the internet says!). There is much that can be done to minimize or eliminate your pain but it will take time, understanding and patience. We still have much to learn about why pain persists after tissues have healed!
Then we discussed that there was lots that these individuals could still do – physical exercise, work, and socialize. It is very likely that that these patients will return to their previous activities but it may take a little longer than they would like or had imagined.
Next, pain won’t go away by doing nothing!!! Experiencing pain is does not mean necessarily mean there is tissue damage occurring. It is not always cause and effect. Keeping active and doing meaningful tasks even while you have pain is important. It changes the signals that the brain receives. You may need to modify how you do things or how much you do while you recover but doing nothing at all leads to wastage of muscle tissue and a loss of function and capacity.
This is a challenging concept for people experiencing pain – I have been there myself and it is a conscious choice to do something that may be uncomfortable to move ahead. Anyone who goes to the gym knows that to make gains in muscle volume, endurance and strength, you need to move past your current barriers. Every single step forward is progress 🙂
Breathing is important for pain management, as a great way to manage anxiety and as a mechanical way of keeping your spine, ribs and diaphragm in great shape. In turn, this helps to make the legs and pelvis and the arms, neck and head work better. Win!
Apart from Osteopathic treatment, I use JEMS Movement ® to help out here. JEMS is about sensing your body and how you move, getting out of your head and back into feeling all the other sensations that are going on in your body when you move. Using graded movement and challenges, we build confidence and awareness to guide you back to your body and improve strength and capacity.
The aim is to build self-efficacy (self reliance) rather than relying on your practitioner. After all, we don’t live your life, YOU do!
So, if you have pain that is persistent, come and visit so we can help you get back to doing the things you enjoy 🙂