Everyone tells you how great it is that all the tests are clear....so why are you still in pain? Sometimes you almost wish they would find something to validate how you are feeling. Chronic or persistent pain is complex. It can be disabling and distressing, and it is often misunderstood. The great news is that there is help available.
What can you do to get yourself on track? Start by knowing that your pain is real, even if the tests are clear. Get yourself a team who will really listen to your experience with your pain story and who have expertise in pain management. Then go and learn about pain. We now enjoy an abundance of science to support our understanding and management of persistent pain, and the science tells us that one of the most important first steps is to understand your pain.
Here are 3 things you may not know about pain, but you should:
1. The role of pain is to protect
This seems simple but it is amazingly complex. The body alerts the brain to possible danger. The brain then alerts you with the experience of pain, so you do something to protect the body. This can occur even if there is no damage. Check out this entertaining Ted Talk for a cool example of how the pain system can crank up to protect when it perceives danger, even when there is none.
2. We get better at pain the more we practice
Have you heard of neuroplasticity? If we practice the piano over and over, we get all this helpful change in the nervous system and we get better at it. The same thing happens with pain. As we ‘practice’ pain we get changes to our nervous system (neuroplasticity) that may make our pain worse. The good news is that this means the nervous system is always changeable so, with the right approach, we can change it again.
3. Your pain is different to everyone else’s
Our beliefs, past experiences, emotions, memories, our environment and even our upbringing, all influence our pain. Therefore, your story matters and therefore no two people have the same pain management. As this fun video explains, when pain becomes chronic, we need to look at the whole person. So, if chronic pain is holding you back, get yourself a good doctor or physio to help you understand your pain and to get you moving.
You need to tap into that wonderful neuroplasticity, and you can start by learning about pain.
About Jennifer Langford
Jennifer is a founding Director of Clifton Hill Physiotherapy, Clifton Hill Pilates & Rehab and Inner North Physiotherapy. She graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy in 1992 and has post graduate qualifications in Pain Management from Sydney University and in Continence and Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation from the University of Melbourne. A regular clinical supervisor and lecturer to postgraduate students at Melbourne University, Jennifer has a special interest in women’s and men’s pelvic health, particularly pelvic pain, endometriosis, vulvodynia and continence.
Jennifer has extensive experience working in hospitals and private practice in Melbourne and the UK. She has worked for many years managing sporting, spinal and musculoskeletal conditions. After working for 15 years as senior clinician in a continence clinic, Jennifer understands the impact of bladder and bowel dysfunction on men, women and children. She has also worked in a multi-disciplinary pain clinic and has a specific interest in Neuroscience Education in chronic pain and a passion for the management of persistent pelvic pain. Jen is an APA Pain Physiotherapist and is the current Chair of Pelvic Pain Victoria