What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a complex condition that can persist for months or even longer. Chronic pain is typically described as pain lasting three to six months or more, often not correlating with the extent of physical injury. 

People can sometimes feel the sensation of pain despite little or no identifiable pathology. An example of this is phantom limb pain, where individuals experience sensations in amputated limbs. 

Pain perception involves a multifaceted process that involves nerve circuitry and brain processing. This process can be compared to a system of railroad tracks, where signals can shift, branch off, or narrow, leading to varied pain experiences. 

It’s important to note that pain perception is not solely dependent on the severity of an injury or the presence of physical damage. Factors such as mood, previous experiences, and even sleep quality can influence how pain is processed by the nervous system.

Rehabilitation plays a vital role in managing chronic pain. It’s important to establish a strong foundation when structuring a rehab plan. 

4 foundational pillars of rehabilitation to start implementing today

The four key pillars we will talk about in today’s blog are sleep, nutrition, movement and mental health. 

Sleep:

Quality sleep is a vital component of pain management and recovery. We understand that this can be a catch 22. As sometimes it’s difficult to get optimal sleep due to chronic pain. This is why a holistic approach to pain management, and incorporating all of these foundations pillars of rehab into your daily life are so important. 

But to start, do what you can to get more rest and listen to your body. This might look like going to sleep earlier a few nights per week, and adapting your exercise plan depending on how fatigued you are. 

Proper Nutrition:

Proper nutrition and hydration is often overlooked but plays a critical role in supporting rehabilitation. In a perfect world we would love it if every person could see a Registered Dietician. However, there are countless free, easy to access resources online and cookbooks to help improve your nutritional literacy, if needed. 

Preparing nutritious meals isn’t always easy but it is a worthwhile area to investigate and focus your time as there are immense  and long term benefits. Eating to nourish your body can have a positive impact on your energy levels, overall health and of course – pain management. 

Movement:

Exercise and movement are integral to chronic pain rehabilitation. When you’re in chronic pain, it is important to tailor your exercise routines to your individual needs and preferences. Find physical activity that brings you joy and consider your personal motivations for exercise, be it pain management or improved mental health. By incorporating movement into daily routines, you can enhance your overall well-being and establish a positive foundation for pain management.

Mental health and wellbeing:

High levels of stress can intensify chronic pain. We encourage you to recognize and address stressors and seek support from healthcare professionals if needed. While seemingly simple, implementing stress reduction techniques such as breathing exercises, journaling, and/or mindfulness practices can help alleviate the impact of stress on pain perception and overall well-being.

When embarking on a rehabilitation journey for chronic pain, it is crucial to establish a solid foundation. By addressing the pillars above, you can lay the groundwork for a holistic approach to chronic pain rehabilitation.

Remember, even small steps in the right direction get you to where you want to go over time. Focus on one more cup of water, one serving of fruit or veggies, a short walk outside, or going to bed a half hour earlier to start. Don’t overwhelm yourself. 

As always, if you need more tailored help, we are here for you. 

Hope this helps, Eryn & Katie – Registered Physiotherapists

Below are the many resources we have available to help you on your chronic pain journey. 

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