Lorn Healthy Options weekly health tip – November 18

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MFM – The problem with chronic pain

At Healthy Options we receive many referrals for those suffering long-term pain who feel that they are caught in a black hole with no potential solution to their problem.

In many cases the source cannot be clearly identified and the individual has been bouncing from one treatment to another trying various medicines and physical interventions without a suitable resolution.

The chronic pain experience leaves the nervous system firing on all cylinders and this can dramatically magnify our perception of pain and create a continuous loop even after the initial problem has been remedied or subsided.

Eventually these circuits are memorised and become sensitive to the slightest stimulus.

Modern medicine can struggle to diagnose these issues as the focus is often on the location of a structural problem instead of a neurological approach.

Consider a person suffering with arthritic knee pain. One day they have an argument with their boss before leaving work, drop their new phone in a puddle as they get into their car and then trip as they enter their home causing knee pain.

The following day they are promoted at work with a pay increase, their partner calls with news about a confirmed holiday booking but on the way into their house they trip once again causing knee pain.

It doesn’t take a scientist to work out on what day the pain is greatest yet if we X-rayed the joint on both days their would be no structural differences.

As a result we know that stressors like marital problems, difficulty at work, financial issues etc can be a better indicator of how well a person will recover from surgery other than the problem being operated on.

The resultant heightened anxiety and frustration drives an increase in pain perception, sleep deprivation, anger and isolation and deepens that black hole a little more.

Extreme anger is often directed towards the medical profession if the source of pain cannot be identified and treated, but we must appreciate the limitations of an NHS under extreme pressure due to the pandemic.

It is not likely that they will be able to provide the holistic care required for many patients to see their symptoms alleviated, so we need to change our mindset on how we move forward.

Unfortunately not all pain can be fixed with pills, manipulation or surgery, which is what we have grown to expect.

Taking more control of your own care by working on variables that calm the nervous system will be critical to alleviating the symptoms of long-term pain.

In the weeks to come we will look at a range of strategies which can be truly life changing for those who have given up hope, but we will start by providing an understanding of how the nervous system works and the effect long-term pain has upon it.

For the full message go to the free resource section on the lornhealthyoptions.co.uk website.

Rob Graham, Lead Exercise Professional, Healthy Options.