The research indicates what Physical Therapists have long known – education is the key to rehabilitation! Education becomes even more important as we discuss chronic pain. Every PT has stories of patients they were able to treat quickly, who had good long term results. We thrive on those patients and we are just as happy as they are with their results! But when patients have struggled with a chronic condition for years, they tend to develop abnormal motor patterns (see previous post) and poor pain responses. Therefore, most chronic pain patients have better long term outcomes with education along the way to help them manage their symptoms through the years.|
Education is key and commonly termed “explaining pain”. This is incredibly important in chronic pain since the nervous system pathways that maintain chronic pain do not function in a way that we commonly understand. Acute pain indicates tissue injury and is the body’s response to protect the damaged tissue. With chronic pain the nervous system is no longer responding to acute injury and the “protection” it offers is no longer helpful, but detrimental to healing. Therefore, it is important to gain an understanding of how pain is produced, why pain can persist when tissues are healed, and how pain can be seen as a truly biopsychosocial phenomenon.
Self-management plans are implemented to help each patient achieve THEIR goals. These plans help to give each patient control over their pain and over their ability to return to their chosen activities in life. Although these plans are always patient specific, they generally include several of the same ingredients. First, reasonable goals and timelines for achieving them need to be established. Next, graded exposure and pacing are implemented to optimize sleep (because when you are sleeping is when you are healing!). Targeting stress reduction and finding useful strategies for relaxation for each patient is key to decreasing the load on the nervous system. Another component is helping each person find ways to modulate their own pain which may include use of heat and/or cold therapy at home.
Chronic pain requires a health care ally to walk with you and find the strategies that work best for YOUR body. If we can help you, please feel free to contact us at (425)658-4944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.