Let's address the lion in the room...

Hello everyone. Sorry for the delay on this post. I just got back from an amazing trip in Kauai and I am playing a bit of catch up. My boyfriend Warren and I spent a week relaxing, snorkeling, kayaking, boating, and taking in the fresh air of the Hawaii islands. It was the perfect place to reboot and de-stress. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

It is always interesting to me that when I am on vacation or doing activities that bring me fulfillment, I don’t notice those aches and pains that plague me during the stressful work week. I often wonder how much stress contributes to my pain. I usually seem to notice my low back, neck, or headache pain more so when I am stressed out! 

Pain is not always what it seems. We now know that pain is 100% of the time produced by the brain. We have all experienced physical pain at some point in our lives. It can be acute, lasting less then 3 months. Or it can last longer than 3 months, which is called persistent pain.

Acute pain is generally a result of tissue damage. The brain is signaled to protect the site of injury. Acute pain is most often treated with medications for pain/inflammation management, rest, and gradual/controlled return to activity.

Persistent pain is a bit trickier. After 3-6 months, tissues have healed as much as they can and lack inflammatory markers. Tissue damage is no longer the source of pain. The brain is now doing all the dirty work.

 

I have a great example of this. I have always had some sacroiliac joint (SIJ) dysfunction due to hypermobility and some weakness throughout my core. From time to time, I will have some alignment issues resulting in SIJ pain. Most of the time this pain is acute and resolved with proper physical therapy management. However, a few years ago I was taking a course on SIJ dysfunction. Prior to the course I did not have any SIJ pain. But by the end of the course I was in significant pain throughout my SIJ without any specific mechanism of injury. So why was I in so much pain? My brain was completely focusing in on this area of my body and I was relating my past injuries to the course work. My brain started to go on defense!

Generally pain is a good thing. It warns us that there is danger. However, sometimes our brain will perceive a threat when there is no actual danger.  Imagine seeing a lion in the room when it is actually a small kitten. The nervous system has become hypersensitive. This is chronic pain. It is a protective mechanism and a learned behavior from past events.

 

The good news is that chronic pain is treatable with a holistic approach including stress management, proper nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, cognitive behavioral treatment, and controlled physical activity without fear or pain protection.

This is part 1 of my chronic pain series. Going forward I will cover the specifics behind the science of chronic pain as well as how to help you manage chronic pain better.

Stay tuned!