If you suffer from headaches, back pain, neck pain or joint pain that persists for more than six to eight weeks, you may be experiencing chronic pain.
The good news is that now you can do more than just put up with it.
Origins of chronic pain
The body requires about six weeks healing following major injuries like broken bones, surgical incisions, etc. The pain associated with those injuries, however, can be felt long after the body has healed.
The acute or short-term pain that immediately follows an injury is directly related to how much damage the body has sustained. But pain that persists longer than might be expected following such conditions is chronic pain and it is not related to the amount of damage that was sustained.
For years, chronic pain has been thought of as a disease itself and, therefore, the favored approach was managing the pain rather than looking for a cause of the pain.
Causes of chronic pain
Muscles are the major cause of chronic pain. They produce pain in four ways.
Emotional stress is the chief culprit that makes us tense our muscles without even being aware of it. Not surprisingly, all the day to-day stress we experience affects the body. You tense your muscles, and you feel pain. And that pain may travel to different parts of the body.
Most chronic pain should not be seen as evidence of disease. It may, however, serve as your barometer of tension. The other causes for muscle pain are weaknesses and stiffness, spasm and trigger points.
How to reduce chronic pain
• Tune in to what your body is telling you
If you are experiencing persistent pain, you have a problem and should get help. Unfortunately, many doctors may not be able to help with your back or neck pains.
Reason: Although about 80% of the human body is made of muscle, most doctors are not taught a “hands-on” approach to examining muscles or evaluating the possible effects of muscle tension, weakness or spasm. As a result, muscle-related pain may not be recognized by your doctor or managed appropriately.
If previous pain management strategies have not worked for you, look for a doctor who has expertise in muscle-related pain. Screen potential doctors to see if they incorporate evaluation and treatment of muscles in their pain-management regimens.
• Stop thinking of the pain as a disease
It will be more difficult to get rid of your pain if you make it the focus of a lot of worry and concern.
Try to carry on with as many normal daily activities as you can. Don’t be afraid of movement, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. Movement is necessary for chronic pain sufferers because muscle inactivity worsens the pain.
Begin a moderate exercise program
This does not mean taking strenuous aerobics classes…or jogging five miles a day. In fact, both types of exercise should be avoided.
Better: Start a walking or swimming program, beginning with a modest distance and gradually increasing your goal as you feel more comfortable. Work with your doctor to develop the appropriate regimen for you. Work up to 30 to 40 minutes of exercise, three or four times a week.
Always remember that a proper exercise program starts with relaxation techniques such as meditation then limbering and stretching prior to the initial exercise followed by a cool down period, which ends with relaxation again.
In addition to helping you stretch and strengthen, the process will help your mind release tension and stress, the major causes of chronic muscle-related pain.
If your pain is associated with danger signs fever, chills, night sweats, headaches and malaise it could indicate an underlying disease or potentially serious problem. You should consult your doctor
When you walk, you go a little faster, a little slower; take a bigger step, then a smaller step. That’s natural for the body and a great way to exercise to eliminate chronic pain. Don’t worry about the speed at first. Increase your distance by about 20% every few days. Aim to walk two to three miles each day
• Use a stationary bike
Use a stationary bike with the seat adjusted so you can extend your legs a little less than full extension. A stationary bike offers a good aerobic workout if it is done with minimal tension at first and slowly built up in difficulty. If your back hurts on an upright bike, try a recumbent one.
• Cross-country ski machines
Cross-country ski machines offer a great workout if you are fit enough.
• Swimming is terrific
But if you have back pain, doing multiple laps with a crawl may result in overarching your back, causing more pain. If you have back pain, the back stroke and the side stroke are safer.
Exercises to avoid
- Do not use any type of exercise machine that forces your body into awkward positions to which you are not accustomed.
- Do not overdo any muscle-strengthening exercise. Three to four repetitions of any movement is sufficient. Then you should move on to the next exercise. You may return to any of the completed exercises for another set but only if you are completely free of pain.
- Avoid stair-step exercises. They can produce pain and soreness from the repetition of one movement. These leg exercises involve only ascending not descending motion for an aerobic workout. It’s better and cheaper to simply walk up and down a staircase.
- Avoid exercising on treadmills, since they also force you to repeat the same motion at the exact same pace over and over again. The body is not made to handle that type of repetitive motion.