“When will it stop?”
“Do I need surgery?”
“Is it cancer maybe?”….
Fear, anxiety, uncertainty, desperation, worry…
These are the kind of thoughts and emotions that anyone living with persistent Pain can resonate with.
Because living with Pain is terrifying. Suffocating. And disabling.
It feels like a prison.
Believe me: I know.
If you know my story, then you know that I had to live with back pain for years when I was in my teens: I remember feeling lost, because I didn’t know what I should do to get better.
As the they say, though, time heals everything, and eventually so did my back pain.
Still, I had to live in pain and fear for YEARS.
But now, as a Physiotherapist, I know better and so now I can help you avoid going through what I went through.
Managing Pain with the Traffic Light 🚦
By following the next 3 steps, you will be able to manage your Pain and recover faster.
We can think of these 3 steps to help you manage Chronic Pain as the 3 lights of a traffic light: red, yellow and green.
1. The RED LIGHT: Rule Out Red Flags 🚩
Some serious medical conditions are highlighted by a series of signs and symptoms known as “Red Flags” (Click HERE to know more about these health emergencies).
These can be ruled out by your Physiotherapist (or other properly-trained Healthcare Providers).
Ruling out these “red flags” can help you ease your worry and anxiety, because it means that there is nothing serious going on (e.g. cancer).
This way, the Pain you feel will be soothed as well, since it is closely linked to how worried and stressed you are (meaning, the more stressed/worried you are, the more Pain you feel).
2. The YELLOW LIGHT: Understand your Thoughts & Beliefs
After ruling out “red flags” we can move onto the second step: understanding and adjusting what you feel, think and believe.
First of all, we have to understand that Pain does NOT have a single cause: as I explain in this post, Pain is always influenced by many factors that can either increase or reduce it.
Stress, fear, anxiety, depression, worry as well as negative thoughts and beliefs can all magnify the Pain you feel.
In fact , when you are experiencing any of the above, your brain perceives the world around as more dangerous than it really is, and so it acts in order to protect you.
In an attempt to do so, your brain makes you feel more Pain (which is our body’s alarm system), even though there is no serious threat (in fact we ruled out “red flags” in Step #1, remember?).
Now that we know this important fact, though, we have the power to better manage our Pain.
Whenever persistent Pain comes back knocking, we should stop, listen and reflect: what is our body trying to tell us?
Try to answer these questions:
–Am I too stressed out lately?
– Am I getting enough, high-quality sleep? (We should aim to sleep 8h/night)
–Am I eating nutritious or overly-processed food? (we are what we eat, so if we eat crap, we will feel as such!)
–Do I feel pressured by pending deadlines?
– Am I getting enough daily exercised in?
– Am I going through a tough period? (Lost a loved one, huge debt to pay, trapped in a bad relationship,…)
–Have I neglected self-care for too long? (Taking some time off and doing things we enjoy it’s fundamental to lower stress levels and recharge our batteries).
Any of these factors can contribute to increased Pain.
As a matter of fact, what we think/feel/believe and the circumstances we are currently living can affect our body, impacting on our immune system and our hormones too, which in turn can greatly influence the Pain we feel.
So if we can manage these psychological and social factors, we can also manage the Pain we feel.
3. The GREEN LIGHT: Explore Movement
By now, we know that our persistent Pain is NOT linked to any concerning disease and also that the way we are currently living, feeling and thinking is greatly impacting the Pain we feel too.
Basically, on step #3 we have the green light to start exploring movement with our body and find out what makes us feel better.
To do so, it’s important to avoid bed rest, as it is counterproductive.
Indeed, a lack of movement can actually makes us feel more Pain (our body is very resilient and it’s meant to move).
Don’t be afraid if you feel Pain at first: your brain is still afraid and trying to protect us from possible dangers (even though we have already ruled that out in Steps #1 and #2).
You can start by moving in a direction or a range of motion that you feel comfortable in, and gently work your way through greater and different ranges of motion.
Also, don’t forget to take small breaks throughout your day if you have to maintain a certain position for several hours in a row (e.g. if you have to sit in front of a computer all day, take a 2-3 minutes break every hour to stand up and walk around/stretching a bit).
Sometimes we can also feel pain because we overdid with some strenuous activity (e.g. you have increased your running distance too much lately).
When that’s the case, what you can do is to give your body a break to reset and recover, not necessarily by quitting, but rather by modifying or reducing that specific activity.
But always keep moving.
It will help you get better, faster. #MovementIsMedicine
Now that you know what the 3 Steps to Manage Chronic Pain are, I hope you will use this game-changing information to improve your quality of life whenever your persistent Pain makes itself heard.
Once red flags have been ruled out, and we have taken a look at our current emotions, thoughts, beliefs and lifestyle, we can start exploring movement with our body and ultimately overcome our fear for Pain.
Understanding that Pain is there for you, to tell you that you should pay attention to how you have been living, feeling and thinking lately, is an important step to help you become less fearful when coping with Pain.
Our body is very strong and resilient.
Of course, you shouldn’t think or feel like you have to figure everything out by yourself.
It’s actually quite the opposite: persistent Pain is something that a qualified Physiotherapist / Healthcare provider can hugely help you with.
If Chronic Low Back Pain affects you too, today is your lucky day!
I have, indeed, invested lots of time and energy to develop the Ultimate Guide to help you Prevent, Manage & Treat Low Back Pain, from the comfort of your Home, in just a Few Minutes a day!
That’s right: no more wasting Time, Energy and Money! But most of all, no more Pain!!
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