What is Persistent Pain (often referred to as chronic pain)?
Our knowledge of the mechanisms that contribute to persistent pain has improved considerably over the last decade. There is a much greater understanding of the involvement of the brain and nervous system in shaping our pain experiences. For many people whose pain continues beyond 3-6 months, after their tissues have healed from an injury, their nervous system remains on “high alert” producing pain more readily in response to various movement, stressors, and other demands on our sensory and nervous systems despite the physiological danger having passed. This often results in avoiding the activities or environments that trigger the pain which unfortunately re-enforces the nervous system’s “high alert” state (Louw, A., Hilton, S., & Vandyken, C., Why Pelvic Pain Hurts, and Crawford, L., Brave Therapy).
You may be experiencing persistent pain if:
- Your pain has persisted beyond 3-6 months
- You are very sensitive to physical assessments conducted by doctors and therapists
- You have noticed an increase in sensitivity to pressure, other tactile sensations
- You are more sensitive to noises, smells, bright lights & busy environments
- You are more readily overwhelmed or frustrated
- Your energy levels have dropped significantly since developing pain
- Your activity level has dropped significantly since developing pain
Adapted from “Why Pelvic Pain Hurts” by Adiran Louw, Sandra Hilton & Carolyn Vandyken, p.9
The Good News…The Cycle of Chronic Pain can be Broken!
The research supports a Biopsychosocial approach to the treatment of chronic pain. That is, an approach that addresses the physiology (the body and the nervous system), the psychology (your thoughts, memories, beliefs and emotions about your pain) and the social aspects of pain (how your pain influences your engagement in important relationships, environments, and activities). An Occupational Therapist can help you to find and fill in the gaps of past attempts to manage and address your pain by looking at these 3 systems.
Your Individualized Support Plan Could Include:
- Helping you to understand why you hurt (the neuroscience of pain)
- Lifestyle strategies to improve sleep hygiene and ensure other basic needs are being met
- Interventions aimed at assessing and building your self-compassion & self-care practices
- Building an understanding of your sensory sensitivities and preferences. What are your pain triggers and inhibitors?
- Strategies for adapting a task or the environment to improve your ability to engage in meaningful activity
- Graded exposure, energy conservation & pacing to gradually decrease pain with triggering activities
- Mindfulness strategies aimed at re-directing your brain’s attention to when pain is alleviated
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. A mindfulness-based behavioural therapy aimed to reduce the impact of pain and distress over your ability to live a rich and meaningful life