Chronic pain is a term that describes pain that lasts for an extended period of time beyond normal recovery. Chronic pain may develop because of an injury or condition that lasts a long time or sometimes you have chronic pain because your body can become more sensitive following an injury. There is also another group of individuals who develop chronic pain with no physical evidence of non-healing or sensitivities. This type of chronic pain occurs because of psychological factors such as stress or anxiety.
When we experience stress in a healthy situation, our fight or flight response kicks in. Once the threat is gone, this response should go away. However, when we are in a prolonged stressful, anxious situation our bodies become exposed to stress hormones for too long and it can create problems. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones which can cause inflammation and pain when it is present for too long. This same hormone is an anti-inflammatory when it is present in the body for short periods of time for healthy stress-related responses.
How can you manage stress levels in order to improve your pain levels? It may take a combination of factors to help address stress-related pain responses. Education is key. Many times, making individuals aware of how stress is affecting their body and bringing to their awareness habits and postures which attribute to stress can help significantly. I have seen this as a powerful tool in our Physical Therapy clinic when working with individuals dealing with chronic pain. Education and awareness are powerful tools.
Physical Therapists are trained to identify movement patterns and postural habits which can develop as a result of carrying stress for a long period of time. Physical Therapists can utilize soft tissue mobilization, exercise, stretching, breathing exercise, and postural retraining to rehabilitate these individuals.
Mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral training are also tools which can help individuals eliminate stress patterns they have developed over time. Mindfulness training helps individuals to be present in the moment versus focusing on their pain or other thoughts which increase the fear and stress response. Cognitive-behavioral training helps an individual break down emotional responses to pain and stress and reframe thoughts and habits with more healthy, effective and functional patterns.
Individuals who are dealing with high levels of stress and possibly mental illness may need to be referred to a health care provider who can more appropriately address these concerns.
Conservative Management of Chronic Pain
Medical Management of Chronic Pain
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Have you been dealing with chronic pain? Is it stealing your freedom and quality of life? The Fit Pelvis is a Physical Therapy clinic with a focus on pelvic health. If chronic pelvic pain is affecting your lifestyle and keeping you from doing what you love doing, please reach out to our office to discuss how pelvic floor physical therapy can help you. You can schedule a Discovery Call to learn more.