What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is pain that persists beyond the normal healing time of an injury. It is usually defined as being present for greater than three months. The impact of chronic pain on a person can be severe and disabling and affects approximately 20% of Australian adults.
What is the difference between acute pain & chronic pain?
Acute pain is the pain we feel due to tissue damage following an injury, or due to an active disease process. Pain in this instance functions as a warning system to the body, and as inflammation resolves and healing occurs, the pain settles and disappears.
Chronic pain however, no longer functions as a warning or protective system. Due to the brain׳s ability to change itself (known as neuroplasticity), nerve pathways are altered and the nervous system becomes overactive. This is called central nervous system (CNS) sensitisation. The chemicals associated with our thoughts and emotions also influence this CNS sensitisation, either calming or exciting it. Pain signals are now being transmitted unnecessarily. Chronic pain is considered to be a disease in its own right.
How can physiotherapy help?
Chronic pain is best managed with a multidisciplinary approach addressing physical, psychological, environmental and social factors and their influence on pain. Health professionals who play an important role in the management of chronic pain are your GP, specialist, clinical psychologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist.
Physiotherapists play a critical role in assisting people to live with chronic pain and can help in the management of acute pain (and where possible help prevent it becoming chronic). Physiotherapists can work with you to develop a graded exercise plan to increase physical activity levels, resulting in increased community participation and quality of life. Your physiotherapist can also assist you in self-management strategies to relieve pain and achieve your goals.