Every year, millions of Americans use opioids to manage pain. Pain can be unrelenting, overwhelming and all consuming So why do so many of us try to manage pain only from the palm of our hands? Doctor prescribed opioids are appropriate in some cases, but they just mask the pain and create a reliance on painkillers. This has led to the worst drug crisis in American history. The American Physiotherapy Association’s #ChoosePT campaign is meant to raise awareness about the risks of opioids and the safe alternative of physical therapy for long term pain management. Here are 7 things you should know about pain before you even see a doctor or get a prescription:
1. Pain is output from the brain.
While we used to believe that pain originated within the tissues of our body, we now understand that pain does not exist until the brain determines it does. The brain uses a virtual “road map” to direct an output of pain to tissues that it suspects may be in danger. This process acts as a means of communication between the brain and the tissues of the body, to serve as a defense against possible injury or disease.
2. The degree of injury does not always equal the degree of pain
Research has demonstrated that we all experience pain in individual ways. While some of us experience major injuries with little pain, others experience minor injuries with a lot of pain (think a paper cut).
3. Despite what diagnostic imaging (MRIs, x-rays, CT scans) show us, the findings may not be the cause of your pain.
A study performed on individuals 60 years or older who had no symptoms of low back pain found that 36% had a herniated disk and more than 90% had a degenerated or bulging disc upon diagnostic imaging.
4. Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, can make your pain worse.
Pain can be influenced by many different factors, such as psychological conditions. A recent study in the Journal of Pain showed that psychological variables that existed prior to total knee replacement were related to a patient’s experience of long-term pain following the operation.
5. Your social environment may influence your perception of pain.
Many patients state their pain increases when they are at work or in a stressful situation. Pain messages can be generated when an individual is in an environment or situation that the brain interprets as unsafe. It is a fundamental form of self-protection.
6. Our brains can be tricked into developing pain in prosthetic limbs.
Studies have shown that our brains can be tricked into developing a “referred” sensation in a limb that has been amputated, causing a feeling of pain that seems to come from the prosthetic limb – or from the “phantom” limb. The sensation is generated by the association of the brain’s perception of what the body is from birth (whole and complete) and what it currently is (post-amputation).
7. Understanding pain through education may reduce your need for care.
A large study conducted with military personnel demonstrated that those who were given a 45-minute educational session about pain sought care for low back pain less than their counterparts.
No one wants to live in pain. But no one should put their health at risk in an effort to be pain free. The CDC recommends safer alternatives like physical therapy to manage pain. We at Actify PT treat pain through movement, hands-on care, and patient education. We are committed to fighting the opioid crises in the best way we know how: through safe alternatives like physical therapy! If you’re interested or want to learn more about how we can help, schedule a Free Taster Session or arrange a time to talk to one of our physical therapists. Pain is personal, but treating pain takes teamwork.
We’re ready to be a part of your team.