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Physiotherapy for Chronic Pain Management

Pain is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage. (International Association for the Study of Pain, 1986). 

Pain is not a stimulus but an experience. Pain experiences involve thoughts, memories and emotions. Our internal systems (autonomic, hormonal & immune) communicate with the brain.  Thus, we may feel that our pain can be amplified when we feel anxious, depressed and stressed. Research has also shown that other factors such as poor sleep and stress can sensitize the nervous system (see diagram below)
Chronic Pain Management - Physiotherapy
Chronic pain is one example of this complex pain experience. Chronic pain is pain that has persisted for more than 3 months, with no identifiable cause to the pain or not responding to treatment or medications. 

Persistent and unresolved pain often results in: 
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Loss of fitness
  • Tense/tight muscles, reduced flexibility
  • Emotional distress
  • Reduce quality of life
Management of chronic pain requires a multi-disciplinary bio-psycho-social approach. Physiotherapist work as part of the multi-disciplinary team to help patients with chronic pain by: 
  • Educating patients about pain
    • Modification of unhelpful beliefs and responses
    • Understanding about neuroplasticity and pain
  • Improve their physical fitness using graded exercise and activities
    • Reverse the negative effects of inactivity
  • Empowering patients to adopt a more active role in managing their pain