There is nothing more miserable than being in pain and not getting the relief you need. Pain is erosive. It wears you down. The good news is pain management and treatments are advancing. As doctors and researches learn more, there’s more that can be done to help you in dealing with pain. That’s why we’re going to take a closer look at the issues involved in pain, so you can have a better understanding of what your options are and how you might get relief.
I know that you probably think you know a lot about pain. You think pain is pain, right? Well, the answer is not really. You may think that pain happens when you have an injury. The reality is research and scientific studies have changed how medical professionals view pain. We now know that pain can also be the body’s way of alerting us to a problem.
Pain injury warning signals can vary, too. For example, let’s say that you fall down while crossing the street. You may have hurt a wrist, but you’re in the street and traffic is coming. Your brain is focused on getting you out of danger, so it will deliberately minimize the pain injury warning signal until you are out of harm’s way. Amazing, huh?
The other thing you want to keep in mind is that pain will be felt differently by different people. Some people have higher tolerance levels than others. How each of us experiences pain is also dependent on how we live, what we do for a living and a whole slew of factors in our personal history. Some people’s pain is less than others, based on their personal history, while others may have significantly more pain or ongoing pain.
There are two general types of pain. One is considered acute. The other is considered chronic.
Acute pain usually is the result of some specific sort of damage or injury. You might have strained a tendon or pulled a muscle, for example. It is usually shorter term.
Most of the time chronic pain is not related to a specific injury or damage, such as what we were just discussing. It could be related to an earlier traumatic injury; it could be tied to a nerve sensitivity issue or it could involve emotional factors as well. It tends to be more widespread and ongoing for long periods of time.
The bottom line is there is no one-size-fits-all. The mystery that makes the human body so incredible also requires that medical professionals look at each individual carefully to understand the specific issues and needs.
The obvious questions you probably have are what needs to happen to diagnose the cause of your pain and what’s the path forward to get it treated. The answer isn’t as cut-and-dried as you might think. When it comes to pain, there is no single way of diagnosing it.
You know what the first step is, because we talk about it all the time. The first step is to see your doctor. Write down any medications and supplements you are taking, and bring that list with you to your doctor appointment.
Make sure you give your doctor the details on how your pain started.? When did the pain first occur and what did it feel like? How did it start? Where is it located? When do you experience the pain? Do you have an injury? Were you sick prior to the pain beginning? Did you change your routine in any way? Did you get a new chair or a new mattress? Did you start wearing different shoes? Has the pain changed? Is it worse or better? What sorts of movements or activities bring the pain on or is it a constant pain?
Share every detail you can think of and any other developments involving your health and your health history. This is extremely important to give your doctor a full picture for purposes of your diagnosis.
When you go to the doctor, you can expect your medical professional will perform a thorough examination, and there can always be the potential for some tests, such as imaging tests, to pinpoint the exact cause of your pain.
Don’t be surprised if your doctor prescribes physical therapy to help you get relief from the pain. Your physical therapist is trained to help with acute and chronic pain.
When you arrive at your physical therapist, you can expect your physical therapist will review the information your medical professional has sent forward, in addition to performing a thorough exam.
Here at Tidewater, I know I have told you that I always have a detailed conversation with my patients to get their feelings and concerns. I remain convinced that this dialogue and an ongoing dialogue is really critical to getting a true understanding of what’s going on and having the kind of relationship and exchange of information that contributes to the best possible outcome.
Because the causes of pain are so varied, depending on what is causing your pain, treatments will require a specific approach to your care and the specific need. You can expect your physical therapist will devise a customized treatment plan for you that may include hands-on therapy to increase movement and reduce pain.
You will find some physical therapists will have additional training for which they have become specifically certified to provide more resources to address the problem. For example, I am certified in ART, which is a hands-on, movement-based treatment.
We’ve talked about it before. ART has proven to be highly effective in treating many different conditions. So many, in fact, that I can only name a few here, but they include arthritis, back pain and injuries, muscle pulls and cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, frozen shoulder, foot pain and injuries, hip pain, joint dysfunction, shoulder pain, shin splints, rotator cuff syndrome, tendonitis, headaches, hand injuries, whiplash, knee and leg pain and injuries, and even muscle weakness.
Believe or not, that’s just a short list of the number of ways this treatment can be used to tackle some difficult problems, but you get my point.
Pain presents in a variety of ways, with a variety of individual challenges, so I come down on the side that says you need a variety of skill sets to be effective.
Movements coupled with some tailored exercises are often used, too, because studies have shown that a regular program involving movements or exercises can decrease pain. Here, too, your physical therapist will work with you on elements specifically chosen for your pain symptoms.
The treatment plan might also include some activities you can do at home, and there may also be additional elements added for chronic pain, to address other potential factors that can come into play.
The important thought I want to leave you with is don’t give up. I get it. Pain limits you physically and it takes an emotional toll, too. What matters is moving forward to actively seek a solution. There is nothing good about being depressed and hurting. Getting the best outcome for you means taking the proverbial bull by the horns and getting the answers you need to have a better quality of life. You know I am always going to be pushing you because I want you to live your best life.
Bob Cairo is a licensed physical therapist at Tidewater Physical Therapy. He can be reached by calling (302) 537-7260.