Pain by definition is:
“An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage”
Pain Australia notes that “Pain is not just a physical sensation. It is influenced by attitudes, beliefs, personality and social factors, and can affect emotional and mental wellbeing“.
Pain Australia also report that there are 3 main types of pain:
- Acute pain lasts for a short time and occurs following surgery or trauma or other condition. It acts as a warning to the body to seek help. Although it usually improves as the body heals, in some cases, it may not.
- Chronic pain lasts beyond the time expected for healing following surgery, trauma or other condition. It can also exist without a clear reason at all. Although chronic pain can be a symptom of other disease, it can also be a disease in its own right, characterised by changes within the central nervous system.
- 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.
(Information sourced directly from: www.painaustralia.org.au/about-pain/what-is-pain).
With all of this information in mind, we understand that pain is pretty complex, and at times it can be really confusing.
For now, let’s focus on chronic pain and try to simplify things a little for you.
Chronic pain is a type of pain that is constantly nagging at you, but you don’t know why.
You might have been sent for an MRI, but the results came back clear. The GP told you there was nothing wrong with you.
Regardless of the results, the pain is just as bad as ever. If that sounds familiar, there might be some things we can work on.
Firstly, let’s look at stress levels. Are you constantly stressed, working overtime? Are you worried about your family life, or financial situation? Research shows that consistently high stress and worry levels can contribute to a higher pain experience.
If you are hoping to improve your pain levels, you might consider changing your lifestyle to reduce your stress levels. Can you stick to a healthy work routine, or add some morning stretches or walk to your day? These little things can create long lasting changes over time!
Next, let’s look at your sleep patterns. Do you get a decent, uninterrupted sleep each night? It’s recommended that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. It’s also important that we try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
Research shows that consistent sleep deprivation over a long period of time can contribute to a higher pain experience, so it’s important that we aim for that 7-9 hours per night. By making small changes to your evening routine, your body has a better chance at managing your pain.
Diet and exercise also play a huge role in managing a persons pain experience. By having a healthy diet and exercising regularly, chronic pain can improve, particularly for people with osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal or joint pain.
Finally, it’s really important to remember that medication alone is not the best way to treat chronic pain. Research shows that pain is best managed when taking into account all other factors (such as stress, lifestyle and social), and not just relying on medication.
Our key take home points:
- Medication alone won’t effectively treat pain in the long term.
- Doing small things each day will lead to positive outcomes (e.g small walk or a healthy breakfast).
- Sleep and stress management can have a huge impact on your pain levels.