Chronic pain is a complex health condition which is characterized by persistent pain that generally last for an extended period, usually beyond the expected time of an injury or illness. It is often characterized by pain lasting for three months or more and may even continue for years.
There are various causes for chronic pain. It may result from an initial injury or trauma or medical conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.
Chronic pain can have a significant impact on a persons physical, emotional and social well being.
You get various types of chronic pain. The common types includes
1) Musculoskeletal pain (eg neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain)
2) Neuropathic pain (often caused by nerve dysfunction or damage)
3) Medical Conditions ( eg fibromyalgia, chronic migraines)
In chronic pain, the nervous system can become sensitized which may result in heightened pain perception which means that non-painful stimuli such as a light touch can be quite painful for the individual. This is known as central sensitization and can contribute to chronic pain.
Chronic pain can have a physical and emotional impact on an individual and affect quality of life in a way that it may lead to physical limitations, reduced joint mobility, muscle stiffness, fatigue, mood changes, sleep disturbances as well as anxiety and depression.
Managing chronic pain often involves a collaborative approach between various healthcare professions which may include doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists and pain specialists.
How can Physiotherapy help with chronic pain?
Physiotherapists play a crucial role in managing chronic pain, firstly by conducting a thorough assessment in order to understand the underlying causes of pain, contributing factors and how the pain impacts the individual’s daily life.
Physiotherapy treatment will be based on the outcome of the subjective and physical assessment. Physiotherapy offers a variety of management techniques to assist with chronic pain which may include hands on manual therapy such as soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization as well as exercises to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and enhance overall physical function.
In terms of exercises for individuals with chronic pain, physiotherapists focus on functional rehabilitation which may involve specific training for work-related tasks, recreational activities or sports. Furthermore, your physiotherapist can assist with education and self management strategies which includes education about the condition, teaching of relaxation techniques, ergonomic principles to minimize pain triggers and manage pain flare-ups effectively.
Lauren Kloppers – Physiotherapist