One in five Canadians suffer from chronic pain, which is pain that persists for 3 months or longer. The cause of this pain may or may not be clear, but what is clear is the impact it has on daily life. Chronic pain effects people more than just physically: changes also occur in the mind when pain persists. This can include increased negativity bias, decreased self-efficacy, catastrophic thinking, anxiety, depression, hypersensitivity to sensory input, and even grief. This sensitivity and hypervigilance is considered a malfunction of your protective systems.
I have recently completed a course through Pain BC called 'Gentle Movement & Relaxation Program' that is all about teaching those living with chronic pain how to use movement as a safe pain management strategy! We begin with learning about the science of pain so we can reconceptualize it. Pain is a complex protective mechanism that your nervous system uses in hopes of protecting you, but this alarm system can malfunction, which means that the amount of pain you feel is not necessarily directly related to the level of tissue damage in the body.
Movement is the best way to calm a sensitive nervous system, and to restore/maintain tissue health. Repeated physical experiences that are inconsistent with the previous belief that movement is dangerous may be the most powerful way to reduce pain, recover function, and increase quality of life. These gentle movement and relaxation techniques can be a great self-management tool as it shows participants that they can change and influence their pain. With some guidance we can turn the ‘pain volume’ down!
If you are dealing with chronic pain, keep an eye out for a Gentle Movement & Relaxation Program here at AHS in the new year! Using the 7 Pathways to Recovery covered in the program (knowledge of pain biology; breathing; practicing compassion, focus, persistence, and enjoyment; awareness and self regulation; challenging the body; resetting the nervous system; and goal setting) you can take control of your pain.