The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.
Pain is not just a physical sensation. It is influenced by attitudes, beliefs, personality, and social factors, and can affect emotional and mental wellbeing.
Although two people may have the same pain condition, their experience of living with pain can be vastly different—if you live with pain, you will already know this.
There are three main categories of pain: acute, chronic and cancer pain.
Acute pain lasts for a short time and occurs following surgery or trauma or other condition. It acts as a warning to the body to seek help. Although it usually improves as the body heals, in some cases, it may not.
Chronic pain lasts beyond the time expected for healing following surgery, trauma, or other condition. It can also exist without a clear reason at all. Although chronic pain can be a symptom of other disease, it can also be a disease, characterised by changes within the central nervous system.
Cancer pain can occur in patients with early stage and advanced disease, and in cancer survivors as a severe and debilitating side-effect of treatment.
Deloitte Access Economics was commissioned by Pain Australia to establish the local and Australia wide socioeconomic impact of pain, and to conduct a cost effectiveness analysis of health interventions that could reduce the impact of pain in Australia.
In this report, evidence has been presented to demonstrate the burden of chronic pain in Australia, including health system, productivity and carer costs, other financial costs, and the loss of wellbeing.
The key findings include:
- 24 million Australians were living with chronic pain in 2018. 53.8% are women and 68.3% are of working age
- For the majority (56%) of Australians living with chronic pain, their pain restricts what activities they can undertake
- The total financial cost of chronic pain in Australia in 2018 was estimated to be $73.2 billion, comprising $12.2 billion in health system costs, $48.3 billion in productivity losses, and $12.7 billion in other financial costs, such as informal care, aids and modifications and deadweight losses
- People with chronic pain also experience a substantial reduction in their quality of life, valued at an additional $66.1 billion
- The costs of chronic pain are expected to increase from $139.3 billion in 2018 to $215.6 billion by 2050 in real 2017-18 dollars
If we suffer from pain, this affects quality of life for the person with pain, and for others around him/her.
We often do not understand what it is like to live with pain, or ill health, until we experience it ourselves – when we are sick, we would give anything to get better again. If someone we love is suffering, there is no limit on what we would do to help them.
What to do if you have pain?
Pain is an important tool – it is necessary – it is designed to protect us from actual or potential tissue damage – however, it is unpleasant, and when it is chronic, we need to seek help.
Multidisciplinary pain management embraces a combination of medical, physical and psychological therapies and is the most effective way to improve function and mood and reduce disability.
It also known as a bio-psycho-social approach because it aims to address all the factors that influence the pain experience.
Multidisciplinary pain management involves a team of health professionals who will comprehensively assess your condition and work with you to achieve your goals—such as being able to return to work, or just being able to walk the dog—using a range of treatments and strategies.
In multidisciplinary pain management your team of health professionals offer support and treatment, but you are required to take responsibility for your health and wellbeing on a day-to-day basis. Self-Managing chronic pain includes tailored exercise, relaxation, and daily activities. Evidence shows that patients who embrace active self-management strategies achieve better outcomes than those who rely on passive strategies like medication.
Pain is complicated – it is a response to a perceived threat and has a response on our cardio, endocrine, and respiratory systems in our body. Everything is in hyper drive- we cannot just switch it off easily – It can be like an alarm system that we cannot shut off.
The receptors in the body become extra sensitive – a light touch can cause pain – we can have flare ups as a result of factors that have nothing to do with pain – like a trigger to an emotional state, we can also have a trigger that produces a pain experience in our body – however, the trigger may be a smell, or something abstract that is not related to pain, but the pain still happens!
Pain can change movement patterns and posture. Re-education on how to move efficiently can address this, which can help decrease pain. Gentle movement, in a safe and supportive environment can help calm the pain response. If the person experiencing pain feels physically and emotionally supported by a qualified practitioner, then the person with pain may let go of excess muscle tension, and perhaps feel empowered to explore movement without force, or effort.
The person experiencing pain may then be able to relax and sense their body – they may have a sense of relief from being able to move. He or She can judge their own experience and take a “what if” approach – so He or She can make a sensory distinction about what it feels like.
How can you begin?
Breathing, gentle moving, laughing, meditation and practise mindfulness (the art of being present), either in a class with a skilled and qualified practitioner, or solo.
Distraction can be useful and productive – distraction can provide a neurological pathway that dials down the pain sensation – e.g., if we focus on breathing, or “where is my pinkie finger?”, the pain can dial down.
We can learn other things than feeling pain all the time – try to sense something about how you feel when you are sitting or lying down – which muscles can you feel? – can you hear your heartbeat? Can you feel the warmth between your hands if you hold them lightly together?
To obtain change, repetition and consistency is important – once you start to feel better, you feel empowered to be curious about moving and start to see how it can “unlock” your body and give you confidence to want more.
Once you start the journey to ease pain through moving, most people report feeling grounded, light, taller, more connected, softer, moving easily and more centred.
When you move your body, you heal yourself, and this is encouraging.
It is inspiring to know that you can create your own change. If you start with small bursts, and build tolerance – a de-sensitising process, in a safe environment, with a skilled practitioner, then you should start to feel some results.
10 things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance to avoid pain:
- Meditation and Relaxation
- Movement Education – such as Therapeutic/Clinical Pilates where the teachers have a Tertiary Qualification – e.g., Pilates led by a Physiotherapist or teacher that has a Diploma of Pilates, or Advanced Diploma – helping you to move your body efficiently – making you stronger and more mobile, helping you feel confident and more energetic.
- Gentle daily exercise – for example walking
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Laughing classes
- Listening to music
- Having a warm relaxing bath
- Change your diet (refer to your local GP for assistance if required, or many of the wonderful nutritionists in your local area).
All of these can be done quite easily if we are still in lock down. Each of the above 10 suggestions work well by themselves, but more effectively when combined.
Classes for Yoga, laughing, Pilates, and meditation can be taken online easily, and inexpensively via Zoom.
Walking outdoors is free and has the benefit of providing a dose of fresh air and Vitamin D.
Sleeping/napping is a great way to stay calm, and reduce pain – if you have trouble sleeping, please refer to your local GP for assistance) – many of the other 9 ways to reduce pain can help you sleep better.
If you do not have a bath, then a warm/hot shower is nice also.
Please note – there are many people and resources available to you to help you with your health.
Please reach out to us at Emerald Pilates for any help or further information.
Stay well, strong, and healthy – looking after yourself means you are also looking after those that you love.