Are you living with chronic musculoskeletal pain? If so, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle daily with this condition and it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help manage the pain and improve quality of life. In this blog post we’ll discuss:
- How Physiotherapy and Exercise Can help Chronic Pain
- 6 Chronic Pain Self-Management Strategies
- Evidence-based treatments for managing chronic pain
- Tips and strategies for managing your own symptoms at home.
With these tools in hand, you can take charge of your wellbeing and begin your journey towards recovery!
Benefits of Physiotherapy and Exercise for Treating Chronic Pain
People who suffer from chronic musculoskeletal pain can find relief in physiotherapy and exercise. It is important for those suffering from chronic pain to understand the many ways that physiotherapy and exercise can help improve their pain and disability.
Here are some benefits of engaging in regular physical activity and physiotherapy:
1. Physical Changes
Exercise can help to improve muscular endurance, strength, and range of motion. Many of our prescribed exercises are intended to improve the stability of a specific region of the body which can also decrease chronic pain.
2. Psychological Effects
Exercise can reduce anxiety, fear of movement, pain catastrophizing and increase self-efficacy which have the ability to reduce pain (booth et al., 2017). Exercise (when appropriate) has the ability to calm the nervous system which then helps the chronic pain client to be more tolerant to more exercise.
3. Neurophysiological Effects
Exercise can release endogenous opioids, nitric oxide, catecholamines, and serotonin which can all modulate pain perception.
4. Clinical Pilates
Clinical Pilates is an excellent exercise tool for people with chronic pain.
Pilates uses equipment and platforms that can make exercise smooth and gentle on the body yet can also be ramped up to challenge the most robust of individuals. Pilates emphasizes breath work and it encourages people to pay attention to how they are moving. This type of mindful movement is a wonderful way to build strength and address chronic pain in an environment that is gentle on the body as well as the nervous system.
Our Trimetrics clinical team can also create a solution for you that allows our clients to receive 1 to 1 Clinical Pilates instruction that is billed as a physiotherapy visit. Call us to learn more about this wonderful program.
In a 2022 Network analysis of 118 studies and over 9700 participants, researchers concluded that The most effective interventions for reducing pain were Pilates, mind-body, and core-based exercises. The most effective interventions for reducing disability were Pilates, strength, and core-based exercises. Your Trimetrics team can assist you with all these areas of pain management! (Fernández-Rodríguez, R.,et al., 2022)
5. Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE)
Engaging in exercises with a physiotherapist who is trained in Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE) can be especially helpful for those suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain. Educating oneself on the physiology of pain and participating in regular physical activity can help to reduce pain, improve function and decrease disability.
This diagram below illustrates one of the ways we look at chronic pain with respect to exercise.
If someone’s nervous system is highly sensitized or ramped up as shown in the top left part of the diagram then this is a very difficult time to exercise. In this case we need to use physiotherapy treatment to help bring down the nervous system sensitivity. There are a number of ways that one can do this such as with manual therapy techniques, IMS and dry needling techniques, taping and bracing strategies, modalities and many more.
As the nervous system begins to settle, we can then start with lighter exercises and begin to build. As the illustration suggests, the more we move up this line, the less treatment is required and the less the nervous system tends to be ramped. This methodology has profound benefits for those living with chronic pain.
If you’re someone who suffers from chronic musculoskeletal pain and would like to try physiotherapy or exercise as a form of treatment, call us directly and let our team help guide you towards solutions that fit your specific needs and abilities. Doing so can be the first step towards finding relief from chronic pain.
6 Tips for Relieving Chronic Pain on Your Own
We hope that for those living with chronic pain, this quick overview on treatment approaches inspires hope. And remember, you don’t have to do this alone, and the help of a good team of healthcare professionals can make a world of difference (Lamper, Beckers, Kroese, Verbunt, Huijnen, 2021).
If you live on or near Vancouver’s North Shore and need help with chronic pain, visit us at Trimetrics Physiotherapy, Clinical Pilates and Complementary Health.
For those who are living with chronic pain, taking the steps necessary to manage it can seem overwhelming. But you don’t have to do this alone – a good team of health care professionals can make a world of difference. Trimetrics offers individualized help for chronic pain sufferers and can give you the best chance at recovery.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can reduce pain, improve fatigue and improve general health (Lamper et al., 2021). We recommend starting slowly with gentle activities such as walking or swimming and progressing from there as your body allows.The diagram explained above can also help you to gauge how much exercise you might be able to tolerate and when you may wish to seek treatment. Your Trimetrics physiotherapist can help you to understand and navigate this balancing act.
- Relaxation techniques: Stress and tension can actually increase pain levels, so learning to relax is an important part of managing your chronic pain (Dynamed, 2022). Mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and deep breathing are all effective stress reduction techniques that can help you manage your pain.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is a therapy that helps to modify thought patterns and behaviors associated with chronic pain. CBT teaches you how to respond positively to your pain, manage stress, and become more active despite the discomfort (Booth et al., 2017).
- Nutrition: Eating a healthy diet can help reduce inflammation and improve your overall health. Additionally, poor diet is also considered a predicting, perpetuating, or underlying factor in chronic musculoskeletal pain. Aim to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains in your diet (Lamper et al., 2021).
- Sleep hygiene: Poor sleep can worsen chronic pain and shorten the lifespan. To support better sleep, set up your environment for optimal sleeping conditions (ideal temperature, dark, quiet) and avoid substances that interfere with sleep before bedtime (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) (Schutte-Rodin et al., 2008). We have written another article for you specifically on this subject. Please go here for more information on steps you can take to improve sleep.
- Support network: Finally, it’s important to reach out for emotional support from family and friends or a therapist if needed. Having someone to talk to can help reduce stress and give you a sense of understanding and connection.
Living with chronic pain can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to define you. With the right help, support and strategies in place, you can take control and manage your chronic pain.
At Trimetrics Physiotherapy in North Vancouver, we offer individualized help for chronic pain sufferers and can give you the best chance at recovery. Contact us today to learn more.
Booth, A., Lamping, D., Bie, R., Fransen, M., Pincus, T., & Woby, S. (2017). The fear-avoidance model of musculoskeletal pain: Current perspectives. Pain Reports, 2(4), e641.