Most people will have some episodes of pain in their lives, for many various reasons. In the modern western world, medical care is excellent at dealing with acute emergencies. Unfortunately, when this pain becomes chronic, and medicine has difficulty making a specific diagnosis, everyone becomes frustrated, especially the ones suffering! The current “treatment” for this type of chronic pain, is to throw all sorts of medications (including opioids) at the issue, and hope that one of them works. This method of treatment, not only ignores some of the underlying issues of why you are having the chronic pain, but also ignores the sometimes catastrophic side-effects of the medications.
When you suffer from chronic pain, it greatly increases your stress levels (See the link to our blog on stress at the bottom of this article). This chronic exposure to stress floods your body with a hormone called cortisol. Being chronically exposed to cortisol will kill you…just slowly. Evidence linking stress, psychological distress, depression and disease is compelling, and becoming far too strong to ignore.
So if medication doesn’t help, what are you supposed to do with this chronic pain that you are suffering from? In her book, The Fibro Manual, Dr. Ginevra Liptan outlines “the four R’s” as a manageable treatment program. Physical Therapists are specifically trained to help patients navigate overlapping conditions and guide you through an interdisciplinary treatment plan to help you address the four R’s. The R’s consist of:
Rest: Your body and mind need a break from stress. Find ways to relax (meditation, yoga, relaxing walks, listen to music), let your body and mind rest, and increase your ability to get restful sleep.
Repair: In this phase we repair the body’s nutrition and structure. Stress hormones effect the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients, so getting a proper nutritional plan is very important. In this phase we also look into gentle exercise, and therapeutic techniques (myofascial release, gentle massage, light stretching), which are the specialty of a Physical Therapist.
Rebalance: The body needs to find it’s, “new normal” after months or years of being thrown out-of-whack by stress hormones. In this phase, nutrition, supplements, and certain medications can help control your hormone and inflammation levels.
Reduce: At this point, there should be few symptoms left. These symptoms can be treated with physical therapy, or targeted medications (with minimal side-effects) to allow you live a full and pain-free life.
The thing about chronic pain is that it really doesn’t have to be. You have many weapons to help you control how you feel. If you are unsure of where to begin, a Physical Therapist is a great starting point. They are trained to identify and help treat the causes and triggers of chronic pain, and they are also able to refer you to other doctors or medical professionals that can assist in your healing.
Some of the information in this article was taken from excellent books that can help you understand your body and how to heal it. If you feel you are having chronic pain issues, we recommend that you read them:
“The Firbro Manual” by Ginevra Liptan, MD
“The Hacking of the American Mind” By Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
“Stress and You” https://www.orsphysicaltherapymiami.com/single-post/2018/03/21/Stress-and-You