Pain can be a debilitating thing to deal with; it can leave you feeling frustrated. When you’re dealing with pain and you can’t do even the simplest of activities, that’s when the fear kicks in. The pain and the worry can grip you. Your mind begins to think of all sorts of different things. “Is it a tear? Maybe I’ve broken something, oh god how am I going to work, what will my boss say, but I need to look after the kids, why isn’t it going away I’ve rested for weeks! The Doctors don’t believe me, I’m so tired of dealing with this pain”.
Let me tell you a little secret….
Are you ready? Are you sitting down?
This is COMPLETELY NORMAL BEHAVIOUR and your pain is 100% real. Pain is a protective part of our body, so it’s designed to help you survive. The brain thinks of all the worst possible situations it can so that you can prepare yourself for them. However, the parts of our brains that evolved to do this, were often faced with life threatening problems such as lions and tigers trying to eat them! Currently our problems aren’t so life altering. However, it doesn’t make it any less challenging, so here are some things that will help when pain is beating you down.
- Understand that pain (Chronic and Acute) has a poor correlation with damage.
Research over the years has shown us that what we see on imaging doesn’t tell us the whole story. Many people have “bad” scans but have no problems. A lot of people have rotator cuff tears yet have no shoulder pain, others have disc bulges and extrusions, but they have no pain. Some people have “normal” scan results and have a tremendous amount of pain.
So, as you can see, there isn’t a straightforward correlation between damage and pain. Yes, sometimes damage can cause pain, but other times it’s not so simple. In most cases, pain is an overload of many things (sometimes including damage) that forces your brain to produce pain. These things often include stress, dehydration, poor sleep, too much exercise or too little exercise.
- Calm it down, then build it back up (slowly) (Greg Lehman)
A wise man once said these words, and I say them to everyone I meet who is in pain. Pain is a protective part of us. It’s not the devil trying to get us. So, the best thing to do is make your body feel safe again. Calming things down simply means avoiding things that aggravate you and doing all the things that don’t hurt.
E.g.: If it hurts to bend, try bending at the knees or lunging. If it hurts after sitting, try to get up more regularly. If it hurts to reach behind your back, then try turning instead.
From here slowly start to build yourself back up. You need to reintroduce those once painful/aggravating activities. If you avoid them forever, you will only reinforce the idea that those activities are dangerous. Dangerous movements get avoided, and our body discourages these movement with something we know all too well: PAIN.
Having (the right kind of) professional guidance here will make life tremendously easier, will speed up recovery and help get you back on track. It will also help you avoid flare ups.
- Understand that the human body is amazingly adaptable
Just because you’ve had pain for 6 months, 1 year or even 10 years doesn’t mean you can’t get better! Humans are the only creature on earth that can survive practically anywhere. A zebra is unlikely to survive in the Himalayas, and a polar bear is unlikely to survive in the desert. Yet humans live in both these places and many more. It is all down to our ability to adapt. The human body can adapt for good or for bad.
In cases where pain has been there for a very long time the adaptation is usually not the good kind, but rest assured that with the right stimulus your body will learn to adapt in a better way. Along with this, when your body adapts, it will stop being so protective over you and as a side effect pain will often disappear.
- Get moving as much as you can
“Motion is lotion and rest is rust”. If you’re suffering from pain and stiffness, the best thing for you to do is move around. Our brains dedicate an enormous amount of real estate to all thing’s movement (processing, planning, learning, executing).
All things that move needs brains, which is why trees don’t have them (they have other things that help them). So, getting moving is often the best cure for pain. In fact, when we move around and exercise our body produces pain killers that are almost 100x more powerful than morphine. We just need to start slowly and build it up.
If you’re struggling to even get out of bed, let alone walk then maybe running isn’t the best thing for you. But you can still bend and arch your spine, you can still try to move your legs up and down. If your shoulder hurts to raise above your head you still have an enormous amount of movement available below the point of pain, start moving your arm around here.
All that motion will lubricate your joints and muscles and help reduce pain and stiffness.
Do what you can, and do it often should be the motto here.
Where to go from here
Pain is a tricky thing and not to be taken lightly, but with this knowledge and these tips you can get back on your way. Always find someone who is well educated in pain and movement to help you achieve your pain free goals! (Like us )
If you’re suffering and need some help then look no further, get in touch with us or book an appointment now.