The Relationship Between Lifestyle and Chronic Pain:
How You Can Play an Important Role in Your Pain Management
Pain is a universal experience that serves an essential function, which is to warn us of danger. And it can motivate us to protect damaged tissue while our body heals.
Think of a sprained ankle. It hurts too much to walk on a damaged ankle so we guard it. We use crutches to keep weight off of it and we give it time to heal. And in a few weeks, we are back to weight bearing, then soon we are back to full activity. Sometimes though, our pain persists beyond the time when the threat has passed, and our tissues have healed. Now pain no longer serves a useful purpose and becomes becomes what we call persistent or chronic pain. .
Other forms of persistent pain can result from nerve damage or degenerative conditions where certain tissues such as joints or discs are in a chronic state of injury and cause a chronic pain state.
People who experience persistent pain just want it gone. Unfortunately, the complexity of chronic pain can often make this a difficult task.
The hope that a pill, injection, or surgery can take away the pain often leads to disappointment. These interventions are essential components of chronic pain management but are not the only components of effective pain management. By focusing mostly on outside interventions, it is easy to miss out on other helpful tools because of an overdependence on too few treatment modalities.
Treating chronic pain is like moving a piano. A few people would struggle to lift it by themselves. However, a larger team of people could do it quite easily. Chronic pain patients often assemble a team of therapists such as acupuncturists, massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists, psychologists, or participate in yoga or tai chi activities. However, the one person that is often left off of the team is the patient.
PATIENT, HEAL THYSELF
Understandably, it is easy to see why one would not want to take an active role in the management of their chronic pain. After all, we leave our cars in the hands of qualified automotive technicians, so why would we want to take any responsibility for something as complex as our pain?
Have you ever considered how necessary your actions are in managing your chronic pain? When the concept of lifestyle comes up in the patient visit, it is often met with skepticism and sometimes frustration at our clinic.
It is unfortunate because when you truly understand how important your efforts are, you begin to make significant inroads in the management of your pain.
While it is true that most of us leave the repair of our vehicles to the professionals, we are not entirely disconnected from the "health" of our cars. We can monitor the fluid levels, ensuring that the oil and radiator fluid remain topped up. We can pay attention to telltale signs of wear, such as squeaky brakes or uneven tire wear. Those who actively participate in the maintenance of their vehicles are more likely to avoid costly repairs.
The same principle applies to the management of our health and pain.