Breaking the cycle of chronic pain. What is chronic pain?
Upto one in five Canadian adults suffer from chronic pain. It affects one in five people globally and is the primary reason people seek medical treatment. In most cases, chronic pain starts with an acute injury or illness. Sometimes, what can happen, is that even after you’ve healed from an injury, surgery or other conditions, the pain continues. If the pain lasts longer than 3 months it’s then considered chronic pain.
Chronic pain syndrome can then be considered short term pain, or acute pain, that doesn’t go away and has a physical and psychological impact on a person’s life. Chronic pain syndrome often creates secondary complications such as sleep deprivation, depression, irritability and fatigue, affecting a person’s personal and social relationships.
What is Pain?
Pain functions as a warning signal. The nervous system senses danger and responds to it with actions called guarding responses, designed to protect and defend us from further injury or harm.
Muscle tension, decreased range of motion, anxiety, fear of movement, increased sympathetic responses (raised heart rate, increased blood pressure, change in respiration) and a mechanism called low pain threshold (becoming excessively sensitive to pain and minor impulse or stress to the body region cause pain) are all consequences of the guarding response. This is the way the body protects itself from future painful incidents.
In chronic pain, even after the injury has healed, this mechanism remains and continues to affect the body creating a vicious cycle of real pain.
Your Brain and Pain
When we adopt this instinct to guard ourselves against future pain, it actually does the opposite and keeps feeding your pain cycle and increasing symptoms including pain (scientific research “Pain Processing in the Human Nervous System: A Selective Review of Nociceptive and behavioral Pathways). This guarding mechanism is most likely to occur to those people that view their pain or condition as a threat, rather than something that just is and that in all likelihood can be overcome or at worst worked through towards acceptance and continuing on with life in as normal or your new normal way as possible.
Being extremely apprehensive about your injury and symptoms, avoiding activities believing that that may be harmful, stress and negative emotions are coupled with autonomic, endocrine, and immune responses which may amplify pain through a number of psychophysiological pathways prolonging your “fight or flight” response to the original injury. This will lead to a downward cycle of deconditioning, weakness, muscle spasms and/or tension, increased anxiety and depression.
What can Saanich Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic do to help reverse pain?
Part of our job as physiotherapists and massage therapists is to help you and guide you, our patients, to overcome any fear avoidance behaviour (learned fear), such as fear of movement, by using not only hands-on treatment, dry needling or exercises, to target your injury or pain, but to talk to, explain and assist you in understanding the way that pain and our brain works. We can help you to overcome or negate some of these non-helpful brain responses. By doing this we help you to down-regulate your brains protective response in order to minimise your pain experience.
Working with you in this 1:1 way, taps into your brain and nervous system. Your brain and nervous system is complex. We can work with you to change your neural pathways and learned patterns of thinking and beliefs that in turn produces more of your own natural brain chemicals like endorphins. This resetting and rebalancing, forming positive neural/brain connections, plays a large part in you overcoming your injury or pain experience.
Of course, each individual person is unique and we all come with our own history and life story that also plays a major part in how we experience pain and how we as therapists target your particular treatment. The way we think about our pain and ourselves, how we act and what kind of self-talk we undertake can all play a major role in the way that our Physiotherapists work with you, our patients who suffer from injury, pain, chronic pain, pain sensitivity, learned fear, anxiety, and depression.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is the name given to pain, numbness or weakness in the areas that are supplied by the sciatic nerve. These areas include hip, buttock, thigh, calf and foot. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and when compressed, irritated or inflamed can be debilitating.
When does it occur?
Sciatica is often brought on by restrictions within the spine affecting the sciatic nerve and causing referred pain. Restrictions in the pelvis could cause a tightening in the gluteal muscles putting pressure directly on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica can also be caused by more serious issues which is why it is important to consult a physiotherapist if you notice any referred pain in the leg. It may not always be a biomechanical or disc related issue that causes sciatica which is why its important it is diagnosed correctly.
Sciatica is most commonly preceded by a few weeks of back pain before the leg pain becomes worse than the back pain. In severe cases, it can damage nerves and leg reflexes and cause muscle atrophy of the lower leg most noticeably in the calf.
Often people wait until the pain is unbearable to consult with a physiotherapist. It is important to consult a professional when the pain initially begins as sciatica can cause long-term damage which means longer treatment and longer recovery times.
Sciatica can have numerous sources thus there are a number of Physiotherapy treatments, none of which involve drugs or surgery. Techniques we use include manual therapies (MT) including muscle energy technique (MET), core rehabilitation (CR), dry needling, soft tissue techniques (STT), trigger point therapy (TPT) and home exercise regime (HEP).
Consult one of our Physiotherapists to review your complete medical history and perform a thorough physical examination to determine the cause of your sciatica.
How Can I Prevent Back Pain?
The latest research tells us that often people have never had a physical trauma to cause back pain like a car accident, falling, or lifting something heavy. There are usually a combination of factors that cause back pain which could include overuse, poor posture or other stressors.
Keeping in mind everyone is different, here are some expert tips:
Exercise! you can’t escape it, exercise is important for so many reasons, but a big one is preventing back pain. Muscles are meant to move. If you aren’t in good shape, you’re more likely to hurt your back and feel pain when you do even simple movements, such as getting out of the car. Exercise helps keep your joints fluid and your muscles strong.
Core & glute strength a regular strength-training routine that focuses on training your muscles to work together can help support your spine. Core muscles include your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen. Strong, activated glute muscles help protect your back from activities such as lifting a heavy object.
Eat well healthy eating habits can keep your weight down. Being overweight can put added strain on all of your joints, especially your spine.
Posture awareness be aware of how often you slouch over your laptop and iphone when texting. Take the time to take a break from long periods in front of the computer with a simple walk around the block or some hip-flexor stretches.
Reduce stress stress can impact your level of pain. Stress causes you to tense your muscles and constant tension can cause back pain. Take up a hobby or regular activity that helps you relax.
Sleep style for most, sleeping on your back can put pressure on your spine, pop a pillow under your knees to reduce this. If you’re a tummy sleeper, put a pillow under your pelvis. Side sleeping is generally the best way to go (but everyone is different!)
Lower back pain can be debilitating and can have a major effect on your daily life and work activities. Don’t let that happen to you, put in place some positive things today.
Physiotherapists are experts in the assessment of musculoskeletal injuries, especially spinal related pain, that’s why we can help you. We can help you with a strengthening home/gym-program for whole-body awareness, strength and posture improvements.
Physiotherapy For Back Pain
Back problems are the third most common reasons for taking time off work behind the common headaches and colds and are also the second most common reason people go and see their GP. It is believed that approximately 8 in 10 people in western countries suffer from some form of back pain at least occasionally.
Back pain or back ache is a symptom that can arise from many causes including arthritis, muscle and ligament strains, disc lesions, osteoporosis, sciatica and stress. Many cases of upper and low back pain and sore backs in general are caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. Back pain affects patients of in the neck (cervical spine), mid back (thoracic spine) and lower back (lumbar spine).
At Saanich Physio we deal with a high volume of cases of back pain/injuries and have a proven track record to providing good relief! Our staff here are specially trained in dealing with back related issues whereby digital spinal analysis, X-rays and a comprehensive physical exam are utilized to determine the exact cause of the back pain. We know that everyone is different and therefore we tailor a management program that best suits you! A ‘generic’ treatment formula simply won’t work if you want to stop your pain from coming back.
Here at Saanich Physio we also take a research based ‘holistic’ approach to one’s back problems; as such we also consider and give advice on lifestyle factors that can contribute to back pain. Majority of cases of back pain are aggravated by lifestyle factors, including lack of exercise, schoolbags, being overweight/obese, sedentary lifestyles, poor posture, stress and bad work practices. In relation to obesity – we can also provide superior quality weight loss supplements to assist in this area. We address all of the contributing factors to prevent the pain in your back from coming back for good. Many back pain ailments can be addressed easily and quickly but those with serious and chronic back pain often benefit from an ongoing maintenance program.
Physiotherapy to prevent relapses and worsening of symptoms
Simply, our Back Program is a tailored treatment program to address the exact cause of your problems and to get you back to your favourite activities fast! So if your back is holding you back from sport, occupation and other activities or you just simply have pain whilst sitting or getting in/out of your car then our Better Back Program may be the answer for you!
Our Back Program involves an initial assessment with one of our highly skilled physiotherapists. You will also receive a detailed report at the beginning and conclusion of your back therapy to show your progress and your family doctor and relevant specialists will receive a copy also so that everyone in your medical team helps you move towards being fit and painfree.