Challenges of Chronic Pain & The Importance Of Preventative Maintenance
By: Jessie Geist, RMT
Well, I would like to talk about chronic injuries and chronic pain. Why would I want to talk about this? I would like to talk about this because I want those who suffer from such things to know that there are Therapists out there who really do understand your pain, and there are Therapists out there who truly do want to help you as best as they possibly can.
Firstly, there are some things that need to be addressed before I can go on with this topic. I am a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT); I am the newest Team Member at Discover Wellness, and I am someone who suffers from chronic pain after a tailbone dislocation. Why do I tell you this? I say this because I want you to know that I too understand what it’s like to have pain every day. It sucks! Everything I talk about today is something that I have done as a patient, and also things that I have seen as a Therapist.
So, let us get talking! Now that we have established that chronic pain and injuries suck, lets discuss their relationship with one another. In some cases, they are not related like in Fibromyalgia, they have theories on what causes it, but none say that it comes from a specific injury. But in some cases, chronic pain and chronic injury are related. You know that time way back in the day where you lifted something wrong and you felt a tweak in your back? Or maybe that time you were playing with your kiddo and your shoulder just didn’t feel right? Or that wedding you went to and you were having a great time on the dance floor, but that one dance move just did something to your knee? BUT you kept lifting and playing and dancing! Welcome to injury numaro uno! It caused just enough grief for you to know that something wasn’t right, but not so much where you needed to seek out someone like an RMT. So you take an Advil or Tylenol and went about your week, and eventually it went away. Great! You are no longer in pain! You forget about it and then one day it happens again, you were lifting a box and then tweak goes your back. You were playing with your kiddo and their friend and oh there is the shoulder pain again. You were just dancing in the kitchen to your favorite sing and yikes there is your knee pain… again!
Now you remember it from way back when, so you do the same treatment, Advil or Tylenol and go about your week until eventually no pain is felt. Wonderful, it’s all fine and dandy! Until it happens again, and again, and again. Next thing you know its years later and you have been suffering from the pain in your back, shoulder or knee for months, if not years. Your friend tells you “hey! I know this great Massage Therapist, you should see them!”. Now you are in this treatment room with a Massage Therapist asking you questions about this pain that you have had for what feels like forever! Now you get this treatment and you felt great on the table! Yes! Success at last! But, you get off the table and you feel a bit better, the same or worse! So, this person, who you thought was going to fix this in one shot didn’t fix it!! WHAT IN SAM FRUIT!!
In this situation it is hard, you just want to stop the pain, and so does your Therapist. You just want it to be like back in the day when you would take an Advil or Tylenol and went about your day. Well the bill has come due; in perspective, how long did it take you to seek out help? A year, 5 years, 10 years? As long as you can remember?
And only now you have come to seek help, when you more than likely should have sawt out help the first time. You are now annoyed because you are not better. As a Therapist, I can tell you that if you have suffered so long in pain as the result of a recurrent injury, I can try my very best to make that pain go away in that first treatment, but I cannot work miracles.
Let’s discuss some of the anatomy behind this situation. The first injury happens, and the body heals itself nicely, putting scare tissue where it needs to, and tightening muscles where it has to, so it may create some stability and protection at the injury site. Then, after time the muscle tightness goes away, and the scar tissue doesn’t cause any problems. After this same injury happens again and again, more scar tissue starts to form, causing some stiffness that may be hard to stretch out. Muscles stay tight no matter what you try to do to loosen them. Now you have encountered the body saying “nope, I have had enough!” it’s time to seek out help from an RMT!
We will help get rid of some of that scar tissue build up, loosen the muscle tightness and reduce your pain. But once the body has reached this point of “I am done” we have to help the body (and all of its amazingness that it does for us) realize that this chronic pain and injury doesn’t have to be like this. Granted it will take time, and in some cases forever, for the body to understand that it doesn’t need to be in pain, or hold muscle tension, or have so much scar tissue. But every little bit helps!
All this pain and suffering is your body way of telling you that you need to change things in your life to make this better, like a tradeoff. I will decrease (or stop) this pain if you just stretch regularly after your day is done, if you just get a regular massage to keep me limber and prevent injuries before they happen, or treat the injury before it gets worse. I will decrease (or stop) this pain if you just took a little time out at the end of your day to give me a little TLC, so I can keep working optimally, or as close to that as possible.
As an RMT we can help you through this rough time. We can give you the tools to help you recover quicker, but you also need to do your part in the healing process. That means giving yourself some extra time to look after you. You might be thinking “well I just don’t have time”. This is a good point and all too true. But now you are here, reading this article either in pain, or know of someone in pain. Now, I know that asking you to take some time for yourself is hard, but 5 minutes here and there during your day can do your body and yourself wonders!
5 MINUTES! Just 5 minutes here and there. It is like checking Facebook, creating a story on SnapChat or posting a picture to Instagram, even picking up the phone to call your Mom or sibling! Heck, stretch WHILE you are on the phone with your Mom! Stretch those hamstrings WHILE posting a picture to Instagram! What about Facebook? Scroll through it WHILE you stretch your pec! Imagine you stretched every time you were on the phone, or checking social media, or even lying in bed! Do that 90% of the time, and your body will reward you for your time and effort with decreased or absence of pain and injury! How great would that be?!
The term used for this kind of care you do for yourself is called self-care. It is so very important not only for you, but for the people around you! You go and lift that box! You play with your kid(s); and that wedding you have yet to RSVP to because your knee hurt? Well you better RSVP because no dance move can stop you (within reason!).