1 in 5 Aussies live with chronic or persistent pain. It’s complex, difficult, debilitating, costs our nation billions of dollars a year, and there isn’t a straightforward easy way out of it. BUT that’s not the end of the story. You can overcome chronic pain. I will try and unwrap some information around persistent pain in this blog post.
At the end of the previous blog on Chronic Pain we mentioned the importance of thinking holistically when it comes to chronic pain and to manage your pain by doing things that help unwind your nervous system.
Holistic helpers for chronic pain
When you are experiencing pain that is flared up it is helpful to seek out activities that produce feel-good hormones; things that dial down the protective pain responses and help unwind the nervous system. Those activities may be different for each individual, but some examples include gentle movement, rest, massage, pain medication, breathing exercises, meditation, and other forms of relaxation therapy. Flare ups will happen from time to time with chronic pain unfortunately, but it just means that the body’s “alarm system” is working, albeit a little more sensitive.
Neural pathways and networks in the brain can (and do) change through growth and reorganisation which assures us that our brain’s responses to pain can also grow and be changed. For the brain to reprogram from chronic pain patterns it needs to have safety, repetition, and confidence.
Massage Therapy and Chronic Pain
This is why it is so important that you feel safe during your massage therapy – or with your chosen therapist. The nervous system needs to be able to relax out of its fight-or-flight mode so that your brain can focus on new experiences with touch, pain, and movement in the area/s where there has been persistent pain.
Massage therapy is helpful for increasing the feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. It also reduces cortisol levels and decreases stress. Massage decreases muscle and fascial tension which helps improve freedom of movement and it is great for aiding the body in getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep is vital for brain processing and cell recovery. Poor sleep is detrimental to pain and physical recovery. So if you have been feeling sore and haven’t been sleeping well, try having a massage.
DiM and SiM
It is a good idea to be familiar with the things that unwind your nervous system, easing your pain experience, and which things may be contributing to an aggravated pain response.
A good practice that anyone can do is have a think and write down things in your life that make you feel good and the things that make you feel worse. These things are known by many people as the ‘Dangers in Me’ (DiM) and ‘Safety in Me’ (SiM) and the concept comes from Lorimer Moseley and David Butler with their book ‘Explain Pain’ and the ‘Protectometer Handbook’. Each DiM or SiM has a unique influence on the brain and pain.
DiMs and SiMs can come under several categories such as:
- Things happening in your body;
- Places you go;
- People around you;
- Thoughts and beliefs;
- Things you say;
- Things you do;
- Things you experience through taste, smell, sound etc.
Write down all the SiMs you can think of in your own life on one half of a page and then write your DiMs on the other half. Then sit back and look how it all weighs up. Do you have more of one than the other? What are some ‘Dangers in Me’ that you can maybe eliminate or make less intense? What are some ‘Safety in Me’ that you can add into your day-to-day life or do more of? When the SiMs outweigh the DiMs it helps your brain manage the pain because there is less threat to your body and mind. These things might seem really subtle, but it is a good reflective practice to give a go.
At Burleigh and Broadbeach Physio centres we offer – Physiotherapy, Remedial Massage, Podiatry, Exercise Physiology and more.
Appointments can be booked online or by calling 5535 5215
Below are some resources that are worth a look and a listen to understand pain a little more.
Understanding Pain in less than 5 minutes, and what to do about it!
Understanding Pain: Brainman chooses
TEDxAdelaide – Lorimer Moseley – Why Things Hurt
Tell Me About Your Pain by Curable and Alan Gordon LCSW – on Spotify
Pain Reframed by Evidence in Motion – on Spotify
Explain Pain by Lorimer Moseley and David Butler
Explain Pain Handbook: The Protectometer by Lorimer Moseley & David Butler
Pain Reframed Podcast: 27: Neuroplasticity and Persistent Pain with Dr. Adriaan Louw (Spotify)