If you’ve ever Googled your musculoskeletal symptoms, condition or injury type, you may be tempted to believe that there is a universal textbook that sets out how to heal everything from tendonitis to tension headaches. In fact, unless you’ve been used as a case study, your personal experience and pain have never before been encountered. It may sound strange, but your experience (read: suffering) of pain is a bit like a fingerprint. Even other people with the same type of injury or diagnosis may require a markedly different treatment plan to yours for effective healing and long-term pain relief. This is why our practitioners place so much emphasis on assessment – and why, in addition to physical factors such as pain type and movement patterns, they also ask about everything from your sleep habits to your stress levels. It is also why we place so much importance on at-home exercises and lifestyle measures. So how can you make the most of your personal pain profile to achieve the best results?
Physio tip 1:
Your personal pain profile is made up of a number of factors including pain mechanism type (nociceptive, nociplastic or neuropathic pain mechanisms), pain processing physiology, psychosocial factors and pain perception, and movement patterns. For instance, two people presenting ITB could have differences in pain processing physiology, psychological states and movement function. Similarly, two people with low back pain can have significantly different movement patterns with either increased or decreased extensor muscle activation. Some of these factors can be identified during a physical examination, but others can only be identified indirectly, through what you report about your experience.
How to use it:
In the lead-up to your first appointment for your current complaint, take notes about your experience. As well as documenting details of your pain experience (when the pain or movement dysfunction started, where it hurts, what the pain feels like, what seems to make it worse or better), keep a diary of your sleep and wake times and sleep quality, stress levels daily or a few times a day (on a scale of 1 to 10) along with any notable stressful events or factors, daily or twice-daily mood (either 1 to 10 or using words such as ‘calm’, ‘anxious’, ‘happy’) and pain level (1 to 10 or none, mild, moderate, severe). This record can help your practitioner to more precisely identify and prioritise pain-related factors in your treatment plan, in turn, promoting more efficient healing and relief.
Physio tip 2:
Pain processing physiology and pain perception significantly impact whether you experience your pain as intolerable or anxiety-provoking and debilitating or whether you experience it as tolerable and manageable. These are often assessed in combination (e.g. you may have high fear or movement or pain catastrophising with depression or without). This isn’t to minimise your very real experience of pain. Injury and tissue damage can undoubtedly be excruciating – especially in the case of severe injuries. However, it is increasingly recognised by leading experts and research that treatments recognising pain processing and pain perception can both reduce limitations experienced in relation to pain and expedite healing and recovery.
How to use it:
Knowledge is power. Our physiotherapists emphasise sharing with clients the mechanisms behind their pain as well as how they propose to address it. If you don't feel adequately informed during your treatment, ask questions (it may help to write a list to take to your appointment). In addition, being completely honest with your physiotherapist about factors such as fear and anxiety related to movement - even if they don't ask! - can help them to address this within your treatment. For pain processing physiology, a physiotherapist may work to reduce pain experienced as your brain’s way of protecting against further damage. For instance, if it is excruciatingly painful to turn your head past 30 degrees, a physio may discern that this movement-limiting pain is in fact a sort of ‘overprotective error’ and use gentle, manual techniques to convince your brain that certain movements are safe and that it doesn’t need to send pain signals. When it comes to both pain processing and pain perception, consulting an accomplished and empathic healthcare professional can encourage the brain to reduce the severity of the pain experience. Feeling less pain after consulting a healthcare practitioner can be attributed not only to the treatment provided, but also to the reassurance and confidence that the pain will subside and that there are solutions. Learning about the causes of pain from a qualified practitioner such as a physio or chiropractor can also reduce anxiety about how ‘bad’ it is, in turn reducing the perception of pain. A key benefit of managing pain perception is that it can reduce fear of undertaking movement and exercise required to fast-track recovery (many people resist performing rehabilitation exercise due to fear and anxiety about making the pain worse). In some cases, such as where pain maintaining factors such as fear of movement or pain catastrophising don’t lessen with physiotherapy appointments alone, your physiotherapist may identify psychosocial factors as priorities for treatment intervention and recommend consultation with a Soaring Health psychologist as part of a multidisciplinary treatment plan.
The bad news is, there is no simple answer to why you’re in pain. Google certainly doesn’t know! The good news is that diagnosis and targeted treatment by an allied healthcare professional combined with recommended self-management strategies will very likely deliver pain relief and allow you to return to living a full, free and satisfying life.
Affordable, personalised pain relief and recovery with a SH sports and wellness membership (just $10 per month*)
Whether your personal pain profile primarily requires hands-on physiotherapy techniques and at-home exercises or requires a combination of physiotherapy and chiropractic or remedial massage and psychology or even dietetics, our Sports and Wellness Membership makes optimal recovery and pain relief more affordable. For just $10 per month (*billed quarterly), you’ll receive a significant discount on every single appointment. To become a member, simply book an appointment at your preferred clinic online.