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Chronic Pain

It usually takes up to 3 months for your body to heal after an injury - pain during this time is part of the normal healing process and is a good sensation to prevent you damaging the sore area. For example, if you accidently sit on a pin, your reaction will be to move away from the sharp object, to stop further tissue damage.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain which has lasted longer than 3 months
  • Persistent, easily provoked, burning, vague (can't put your finger on it), dull, ache or throbbing pain
  • Over sensitivity to pain (can also be called hyperalgesia or allodynia)
  • Normal sensations such as touch, vibration, heat and cold are painful
  • Movements which are normally painless are painful
  • The pain gets worse when you're anxious, feeling low or stresed
  • You might have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Flu-like aches and pains

Description

It usually takes up to 3 months for your body to heal after an injury - pain during this time is part of the normal healing process and is a good sensation to prevent you damaging the sore area. For example, if you accidently sit on a pin, your reaction will be to move away from the sharp object, to stop further tissue damage.

In some people, the pain doesn't go away, even though your body has healed - this is called chronic pain. It's a little like the fault light in your car lighting up to tell you there's something wrong with your engine, but despite the fault being fixed the light stays on.

When this happens, your brain continues to keep the warning light on to try to protect the sore area and will release chemicals (neurotransmitters) which make you feel more pain - it's your body's way of protecting itself. One of the main chemicals is known as cortisol which is commonly referred to as your stress hormone. The more of these chemicals you have, the more difficult it is for your pain to settle down. It's a bit like having a melody in your head that keeps playing over and over again.

Anyway, you get the picture. Also remember that fears, emotions, stress, anxiety, thoughts, a lack of support and many other factors can all increase your pain.

Advice and Treatment

The good news is that just as your brain has learned pain it can unlearn it too- recognising and dealing with past experiences and habits can help you to break your pain memory patterns. Chronic pain or sensitisation is pain that remains after your body tissues have healed and these symptoms are often caused by the release of chemicals from your brain - yes, it's your own body that produces the chemicals which cause you pain. The most effective way to settle your symptoms is to understand why you have them, then work with your body to settle your pain. There are a few things you can try too, but it's important that you understand more about your body to really change the way you feel - this can be just as effective as (your own home grown) morphine.

  • Treatments - Massage can help to relax your body, release trigger points, take the stress away from your joints and improve the flexibility of your muscles
  • Distraction - Relaxation techniques such as meditation as well as mind distracting activities such as finding a hobby, doing a puzzle, going for a walk and taking hot baths are a great way to help you deal with your pain better
  • Laughter really is the best medicine (literally) - one of the most effective ways to reduce the pain you feel is through laughter. When you laugh you produce oxytocin, also known as your love hormone. Oxytocin cancels out your stress hormones, so get out your favourite funny movies and let the oxytocin flow
  • Think glass half full - positivity is key to controlling your pain. Negative thoughts and emotions, stress and anxiety all release chemicals which make your pain worse
  • Exercise is the best known way to fill you with 'happy chemicals' (or your natural endorphines) - these have a powerful effect on reducing the pain chemicals and decreases stress, pain and anxiety. Not only does exercise improve how you feel physically, your mind feels sharper too

For more information just google 'Explain Pain' - it's a book written by the experts for people with no medical background. It will change your understanding and change your life.

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