In our last blog we explained that pain, defined as “physical suffering or discomfort caused by an illness or injury”, is simply a built in alarm system to warn us of possible danger. In chronic pain situations this alarm system (otherwise known as our nervous system) gets stuck in bad loop. We’ve all experienced the blue “circle of death” on our computer, and it’s a very similar situation with much chronic pain. The tissues have healed (because that’s what tissues do), the threat that once caused the pain is long gone, but for some reason the pain remains. You’re nervous system, including the pain receptors, need a restart in order to return to normal functioning levels. So how do you begin your reset? The good news is that you already have! Simply by educating yourself on what pain is, why it exsists, and how it works you can effectively reduce your pain levels up to 10%. (Moseley GL. Widespread brain activity during an abdominal task markedly reduced after pain physiological: fMRI of a single patient with chronic low back pain. Aust.j physiother. 2005.;51(1):49-52.).
- The second thing you can do to help reset your overactive or stuck pain alarm system is AEROBIC activity, not to be confused with anaerobic, (see chart above). How much do you need to effectively reset your receptors and reduce your pain? 10-20 minutes, 4-5 times a week with a target heart rate of at least 100 beats per minutes will do it. Exercise hurts at first, but remember…hurt doesn’t always equal harm. A good motto is “sore but safe”. A physical therapist can help you move through this initial challenge, and find the balance safe and effective activities at a level that’s right for you. Some other effective nervous system reset and pain reducing activities include:
- Relaxation / Meditation
- EFT / tapping
- Deep breathing techniques