By DEREK DESOUZA, PT, DPT, Cert DN
Everyone has experienced pain in their life. Pain can last anywhere from seconds to months and even years. The definition of chronic pain, however, is pain experienced for longer than three months. According to the CDC, about 51.6 million people in the United States suffer with what is known as chronic pain. This persistent pain not only affects activities of daily living (ADLs) but can also negatively affect mental wellbeing.
Oftentimes, an over sensitive nervous system is the culprit for living in constant pain for several months to years. Nerves monitor your body and inform your brain of various stimuli, like heat, cold, stress and of course, pain. Pain is the brain’s perception of a threat, when pain is constant this puts your mind and body on constant alert. This heightened sense of alert or alarm can cause even minor stressors to feel infinitely worse than what they actually are.
A common misconception is that an injury must be present to experience pain. Although injury and past injury does impact chronic pain, emotional or highly stressful times can affect the body in the same way. Imagine you’re relaxing in your home and a lion runs into your house and stands in front of you. Almost immediately the body produces adrenaline, throwing you into a state of fight, flight or freeze. When your body releases adrenaline and you are in fight or flight, you are unable to rest or digest and let your body heal. When you constantly live with a “lion”, you never know when it might attack, which leads to constant fear. That consistent fear inhibits the body from healing.
This is what happens when people experience pain for several months, they begin to fear aggravating that “lion” or pain. People living with chronic pain begin to avoid certain activities, moving their bodies less to avoid potential pain. Over time, they begin to experience tender areas, mood swings, appetite changes, weight gain, trouble sleeping, decreased focus, depression and fatigue. Often, this leaves people with thoughts of hopelessness, that nothing can help to heal the pain.
Does this sound familiar?
The good news is that physical therapy can help to break that pain cycle! Physical Therapy can help to decrease your sensitivity, educate you on therapeutic movement patterns, and improve your function reducing, or completely alleviating pain! Physical therapy can help with pain through massage, stretching, strengthening, electrical stimulation, education, dry needling and much more. You are not alone, physical therapists are here to help you remove the lion from your life, so you don’t have to live in a constant state of fear and pain.
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Contact Hampton Physical Therapy to give you the power to take back your life!