Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is usually defined as pain that persists beyond the normal time that tissues take to heal following an injury. Most soft tissue injuries heal up within weeks, although some can take several months to completely heal.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for longer than 3-6 months. It can be useful to understand the differences between acute and chronic.

Acute pain: short-term pains acts as an alarm, telling us that something is wrong. While most minor pains are easily treated and quickly forgotten, others are a sign of something more serious that we shouldn't ignore. For example, the pain of a broken leg is helpful because it makes us rest the leg until it heals.

Chronic pain: sometimes called persistent pain, often serves no useful purpose. The pain messages linked to long-term conditions such as back pain or arthritis are not helpful and can be annoying and sometimes devastating.

Eventually the pain may affect our day-to-day lives including our ability to work and our sleep patterns. It can also put strain on our relationships with family and friends.

The causes of chronic pain are not always clear, it is thought to be due to the pain signals through the nerve fibres becoming highly sensitised and the body responds to signals inappropriately, often causing higher levels of pain than expected.

The nerve network associated with chronic pain is also linked to those parts of the brain concerned with emotions. So, pain can affect our emotions, and our emotions can affect our pain. If we are angry, depressed, or anxious, for example, the pain often feels worse. If we are feeling positive and happy, we may experience less pain and will often be better able to cope.

From the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

The relationship between body and mind is complex, so it is important to seek help for any aspect of your condition that you might be struggling with, physical or mental.

What Can I Do To Help Myself?

Chronic pain can be very difficult to live with and often debilitating.  It is important to try to manage your symptoms as effectively as possible.

Below are some using guides to help better control your pain and how to maximise your day-to-day function.

Self-Management Booklet

Self-Management Booklet - PDF

Coping with Flare Ups

Coping with Flare Ups - PDF

Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Getting A Good Night’s Sleep - PDF

Relaxation Techniques For Stress Relief

Relaxation Techniques For Stress Relief - PDF

Benefits And Barriers To Exercise

Benefits And Barriers To Exercise - PDF

Tips For Stress Management

Tips For Stress Management - PDF

Pacing And Setting Baselines

Pacing And Setting Baselines - PDF

Goal Setting and Action Planning

Goal Setting and Action Planning - PDF

Managing A Set-Back

Managing A Set-Back - PDF

When to seek advice

If you have severe pain affecting your sleep and daily activities, if you have had a serious injury or you have symptoms that have not improved with self-management, you should contact your GP practice. If you have a red, hot swollen joint please ring 111

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