Understanding Chronic Pain

New pain is usually a sign of injury. It is often appropriate to rest and protect the injured body part until it heals.  This usually takes no more than a few weeks. Chronic pain is pain that continues beyond normal healing time.

How does chronic pain happen?

With chronic pain, it is important to realize that the feeling of pain no longer means that there is ongoing damage to the body.  It does not mean that it is necessary to continue resting or protecting the body.

By the time this is realized, however, many people have lost flexibility and conditioning so that normal activities are no longer possible.  They have often developed guarding and muscle tension, poor posture or abnormal movement patterns, all of which can result in continued pain even after healing has occurred.

An appropriately designed conditioning program becomes absolutely necessary for recovery. This includes retraining appropriate posture and body mechanics, and learning safe exercise techniques.

Medications and Chronic Pain

Medication use, sleep patterns and psychological well-being can all change when pain continues beyond a few months.  For acute injuries, opioid medications and muscle relaxants may be helpful to decrease pain and muscle spasms.

After just a few weeks, tolerance to these medications develops and larger doses are required to relieve pain.  Eventually higher levels of medication cause severe negative side effects as well as physical dependence. They can contribute to sleep problems, lack of energy, depression, irritability and actually cause a worsening of pain over time.

Chronic Pain Treatment at RIW

Pain is a difficult problem, and one that is not fully understood.  It starts as a response to injured tissue.  It can continue for many reasons, including the possibility that a permanent injury may continue to cause pain.

However, pain is also influenced by how much you focus on the injury, lack of sleep, depression, fear and anxiety.  The pain signal is also increased by muscle tension, poor flexibility, poor muscle tone, inactivity, long-term use of pain medications, and poor posture and body mechanics.

The Pain Management Program at RIW attempts to understand which factors are influencing your pain, and to treat all of them with comprehensive rehabilitation.

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