5 Tips about Chronic Pain from our senior Physio Elliot Watts

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As humans, we’re born to move. With an increasing sedentary population, chronicity of pain and injuries are becoming more prevalent. Pain or ‘chronic pain’ is loosely defined as ‘pain that lasts longer than conventional healing times’ can often restrict people from returning to activity, a ‘fear avoidance’ mentality can prevent even the heartiest gym junkie from returning to exercise.

With World Physiotherapy Day that took place over the weekend, we as physios are continuing to push the ‘get up and move’ message. This year’s focus being chronic pain, I thought I would share some tips on how I encourage my clients to manage their pain.

Our bodies thrive on movement even in the presence of pain. Movement triggers the production of many hormones and proteins, squeezes blood through capillaries, “cleanses” the joints, maintains muscle strength, keeps tendons healthy, helps control blood pressure and blood sugar, strengthens the bones, enhances the immune system and more. Having a physically active body leads to less pain, better sleep, improved fitness, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, less constipation and more of the things you love. Who wouldn’t want to strive for all that?

Exercise is the spearhead in reducing chronicity of pain and injury. The longer your body has been inactive, the harder it can be to get started. Muscles and tendons get weak, stiff and sore when they aren’t being used, so there can be significant aches and pains associated with starting to exercise an immobile body.

Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of patients with all sorts of chronic pain problems to help them get more physically fit and functional.

Here are some tips that I can share to help you create a more active body for yourself.

1.    Get help

Take advantage of a Physios knowledge in graded exercise exposure, this is our ‘bread and butter’. Returning patients with chronic pain back to an active life style is what we strive to do every day. 

2.    Take it easy at first

You wouldn’t run a marathon without any training, would you? Returning to activity is just the same, especially if you have pain and have been sedentary for a long time. Think small and don’t increase intensity/ load or duration more than 5-10% each session.

3.    Set-backs are normal

I’ve lost count of how many times a patient has had a flare up of pain due to increased activity – returning to activity aimed at reducing pain is never a smooth ride, if pain increases you need to adapt, change something, get some treatment but never stop- a physio can help you with this.

4.    Keep active and stay active (find the fun)

It’s all well and good to do a specific rehab program for 6-8 weeks but what happens after? I certainly don’t expect patients to do a home exercise program for the rest of their lives. The answer I think is finding what sort of movement you enjoy, this could be anything from swimming, surfing, walking with friends playing table tennis, it doesn’t matter. As long as you keep moving your body will forever be grateful.

5.    Embrace Mind/Body approaches through meditative exercise

Movement is not just a physical action; it is really an interaction between the brain and the body. Fortunately, there are mind/body movement strategies that can help relax the nervous system, while simultaneously preparing the body to move in new and challenging ways at the same time. There is a growing body of studies out there that find mind/body approaches like yoga, and Pilates can help patients better manage their pain while feeling and functioning better at the same time.

Ready to get started? Get in contact and let me show you the way!

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Article by Elliot Watts

Julia Leong