5 Tips to Avoid Chronic Pain
(Provided by the American Physical Therapy Association.)
Chronic pain affects over 100 million Americans every year. It can range in intensity from a nagging inconvenience to serious discomfort that can sideline you for days at a time. But there are steps you can take to avoid it.
Know Pain, Know Gain. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that understanding how our pain systems work is an excellent strategy in managing it. The great news is that you don’t need to know a lot! Simply knowing the basics of how our brain and nerves work, and their role in pain, can help reduce your chance for developing chronic symptoms.
Keep moving. Gradually and steadily. Living an active, healthy lifestyle not only improves our general well-being and health, but can also reduce our chances of developing chronic pain. Our body was built to move, and we need to understand that not all aches or soreness is cause for concern.
Spend time with a good PT. If you experience an injury, or develop the onset of pain, seeing a physical therapist (PT) early on can help address and manage your symptoms. PTs are movement experts who can diagnose and treat injuries and help you identify strategies to better manage your pain. The earlier you seek care, the better the chances you have for not developing chronic symptoms. And there’s no reason to wait: you can see a physical therapist without a physician’s referral in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Don't focus on an image. While most of us want a diagnostic image (ie, x-ray, MRI) to tell us “why we hurt,” images actually give us little information about what’s causing pain. A study performed on individuals 60 years or older, who had no symptoms of low back pain, found that more than 90% had a degenerated or bulging disc, 36% had a herniated disc, and 21% had spinal stenosis. What shows up on an image may or may not be related to your symptoms. Once imaging has cleared you of a serious condition, your physical therapist will help guide you back to the life you want to live!
Addressing depression and anxiety helps. Your chances of developing chronic pain may be higher if you also are experiencing depression and anxiety. A recent study in the Journal of Pain showed that depression, as well as some of our thoughts about pain prior to total knee replacement, was related to long-term pain following the procedure. Make sure that you talk to your medical provider about your mental health throughout your treatment; it can help make your journey go much more smoothly following an injury or surgery.
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