Persistent Pain – 8 Do’s and Don’ts
1. I know that your pain is real.
Persistent pain is very complex and often not related to a specific injury or damage.
It is important to remember that your pain is real regardless of other factors that may be involved.
Similar to other chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes there are many factors which will influence pain. These include things like your activity levels and fitness, general health, sleep quality, mental wellbeing and social functioning.
Look for healthcare professionals who are experienced in helping with persistent pain – They will provide you with the opportunity to tell your story, set goals and work on developing a management plan.
You don’t need to go on the journey alone.
2. Don’t panic if you have a flare up
Your journey is will be full of ups and downs, good and bad days. This is quite normal.
Try not to see a pain flare up as a setback.
Take the time to reflect on the situation and identify any potential triggers – a bad night’s sleep, more activity than usual, stressful work?
You and your team should develop a toolkit to deal with flare ups and put you back in control of your situation.
3. Don’t assume pain = damage
Pain is helpful in the short term – if you sprain your ankle pain means you don’t jump up and down on it straight away. It acts like a protector.
So rather than meaning damage the pain acts as a stop sign.
The problem starts when this pain becomes overprotective. So your body is protecting you from movements or activities where the tissues in your body don’t actually require as much protection.
Understanding that you can be uncomfortable or even sore and still safe to move is often very empowering and leads to less pain in the long term.
4. Don’t blame yourself
Pain is not a sign of weakness or old age.
It is easy to get trapped in a vicious cycle of pain – pain flare ups result in lower activity levels, lower mood, poor sleep, frustration and more reliance on medication.
It’s important to set realistic goals that you can work towards in a gradual and realistic manner – don’t try and run a marathon on your first day! But do get out there and walk around the block.
Reward yourself for taking positive steps even when they aren’t 100% successful.
5. Do face your fears
Pain can make you start to avoid activities or situations as you fear it will make your pain worse.
But you might be surprised what you are able to do. Although daunting to begin with facing your fears and restarting these activities can be very empowering and rebuild your confidence
6. Do maintain your social relationships
Pain can be lonely and isolating. You might stop going out with friends or be unable to work.
Feeling lonely can have a negative effect on mood, sleep and activity levels making pain worse in the long term.
Seek out and nurture relationships.
Start slowly, perhaps join a class or regular “event” that makes you attend.
Don’t compare yourself to others – focus on good quality sleep, spending time outdoors and eating well.
7. Do focus on meaningful life activities
Pain can be all consuming, it can be difficult to focus on other things. Rather than simply trying to reduce pain, focus on other activities that bring value to your life.
It is important to realise that it is possible to live a meaningful life while still having some pain. If you focus all your resources on getting rid of pain you have nothing left for anything else in your life.
Your life becomes about pain.
Make the decision to give yourself priority over your pain.
8. Do stay active
Physical activity is important
There is no “best” exercise for people with pain. But there will be a “best” activity for you.
Choose an activity you enjoy and do some – no amount is too small!
More is better but a little goes a long way.
Regular exercise also help improve your sleep and mental wellbeing as well as your pain.
Perhaps try and make your activities more social as well by joining a group. Here on the Costa del Sol we have a thriving Walking Football League which is a wonderful way to get mobile and social at the same time.
Ready to start taking action on your persistent pain today? Book an appointment – either a full consultation or a free 15 minute telephone consultation to see if we are the right place for you.
Article inspired by the great work done by Dr Derek Griffin Physiotherapy