Young Woman Contemplating

CHRONIC PAIN

WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?

One in THREE Americans deal with a chronic pain issue - a persistent complaint of pain that has lasted for longer than three months. One in four have dealt with an issue that has persisted for more than six months.

Many of us can relate to having an ache or pain when we overdo it - but when those become persistent, or move from “ I know how to take care of my ______” to “why is this issue bugging me all the time?  Is something really wrong?” Many times, nothing has changed on your X-ray, MRI, or other medical tests, but you know something is different.

There are many changes in our nervous system (and other body tissues) that occur when pain, fear of movement, or anxiety amplify the signals your body is sending to your brain.  Sometimes, those signals don’t really match up with the level of injury or damage to the underlyings tissues.  This is where physical therapy can make a difference - interpreting, understanding, and building a plan to “reset” the nervous system.  The most important thing to know is that these changes are NORMAL, even if they aren’t OPTIMAL.  

WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC PAIN?

This section could be as long as a Game of Thrones novel. However, what we DO know is that chronic pain is NOT acute pain - bumps, bruises, sprains, strains. It is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PROCESS IN YOUR BODY AND BRAIN. Chronic pain deals more about understanding the signals your body is giving off, rather than what an MRI or x-ray show to be out of the ordinary.  

In fact, once you’re not a healthy college student anymore, x-rays and MRIs are only used to see if there is some inflammation in the area of concern. The rate of “false positives” with imaging in those of us who have passed the age of 40 is almost as high as the rate of findings in injured people. If you have a painful disc in your spine, your neighbor is likely to have one that looks JUST AS BAD, but is still able to get out in the garden or hit the gym with minimal pain. Wear and tear over time, unless paired with a bunch of inflammation, doesn’t really hurt. 

So, maybe all of those fancy images you have at the doctor’s office and all the care you had working to treat what was found on those images WASN’T THE RIGHT TREATMENT. If you don’t dig deep and look at how the body is moving as a whole, it is hard to make progress towards feeling better.

HOW CAN PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP WITH CHRONIC PAIN?

Movement is the foundation of working through chronic and persistent pain. Exercise is how we harness movement for a specific PURPOSE. Manual techniques help us harness movement in the tissues for a specific purpose. Why? Because those exercises:

  • Improves circulation 

  • Builds strength 

  • Increases endurance 

  • Reduces fear of movement 

  • Elevates mood

  • Manages stress

  • Supports restful sleep

  • Reduces blood pressure

  • Increases focus

  • Downregulates inflammation

Do any of those sound helpful in addressing persistent, hard-to-treat pain? 

Anti-Fragile Physical Therapy was designed to walk with people through challenging conditions - whether an old injury has caught up with you, an acute injury has settled in and is keeping you from living your best life, or going through the ringer with the medical system that has now left you confused or hopeless.