A Note About Pain
Thursday, May 4, 2019
Written by: Cora Tomowich
Well hello again, and welcome back to the Lumira ‘blog-o-sphere’! Today I would like to chat about pain and its most effective treatments…
What is Pain?
Well, I think we are all familiar with the feeling of pain. Whether we’ve experienced it by stubbing a toe, delivering a baby, or having chronic low back problems, we know what pain is. It is a very subjective and personal experience that is essential to our survival. Without pain, the body is not protected from potential danger or warned about injury.
The tricky part about pain is what to do about it once it shows up. In cases of acute pain, such as a stubbed toe or a tweaked muscle, we need to focus on repairing any damaged or injured tissues, and get back to healthy activities as soon as possible. Acute pain is often short-lived, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Chronic or persistent pain is a whole different ballgame. Now instead of tissue damage being the primary cause of pain, we are sore because the nervous system has become ‘wound-up’ and programmed to it! The once properly-protective nervous system becomes highly overprotective and behaves like an easily-tripped car alarm. To put it metaphorically: instead of the car’s alarm only being triggered by true threats like a break-in, it will also be triggered by false threats, such as birds flying overhead.
How do we treat Pain?
There is a lot of research being done around pain and its treatment. It is important to remember that all pain is unique to the individual, and it is always real. Knowing how long someone has been living with pain, how it is provoked, and how it is alleviated can be helpful in understanding the pain story. Once clear, studies recommend a multifaceted treatment approach in order to achieve the best results.
Traditionally, health care providers would employ the ‘biomedical’ approach to treating pain and injury. This approach meant that treatment focused on the body tissues using hands-on therapy, medications, and/or surgery; while little attention was paid to the mental, emotional, and social influences on pain. Studies show that the older, biomedical approach offers little to no long-term benefit; and is often detrimental to patients living with persistent pain.
Alternatively, studies are finding that pain is best addressed when we take a ‘biopsychosocial’ approach to treatment. This approach means that we address all of the factors that can influence our pain experience. Specifically, ‘bio’ refers to the work we do for the body tissues to promote healing; ‘psycho’ refers to how we address negative thoughts and beliefs to create positive change in our pain; and ‘social’ refers to how we encourage patients towards an external environment of support throughout the healing process.
A biopsychosocial approach often means that multiple practitioners will work together to help a client overcome their pain. For example, a Physiotherapist will provide the body work, while a Psychologist will address the mental and emotional issues using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Studies are also finding that this multifaceted approach to treating pain, is the only way to successfully re-establish a properly-protective nervous system. If we can understand our pain triggers, we can seek ways to manage and eliminate them. This allows our overprotective nervous system to ‘wind-down’ and return to a healthy baseline.
To conclude this discussion of pain and treatment, I would like to share one of my favourite videos that I often watch with patients who struggle with persistent pain:
So there you have it – a succinct way of understanding pain, delivered by someone who has a really cool accent! If you have any questions or concerns about your specific health needs, please feel free to contact us or click here to book online… Until next time 🙂
- Pelvic Health Solutions [onsite course October (2016)]
- ISSWSH, IPPS, ISSVD. Consensus on vulvar pain terminology committee (2015)
- Jam B. The Pain Truth…and Nothing But! (2010)
- Louw A, Hilton S, Vandyken C. Why Pelvic Pain Hurts (2014)
- Shoskes D, Nickel JC. Clinical phenotyping in chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome and IC: a management strategy. Prostate Cancer and Prostatitis Diseases (2008)
- “Understanding Pain in Less than 5 Minutes, and What to Do About It” [http://www.hnehealth.nsw.gov.au/pain (2013)]
- De Andres J et al. Pain Practice (2016); 16:204-236