The usual suspects……
Physical factors like weak muscles, torn tendons, disc degeneration, and arthritis are often identified as the main source of your pain. With pain that persists or pain that comes and goes these physical factors are not to blame. Remember people can have disc bulges, joint degeneration, and muscle tears and have no pain at all. You can become pain-free again without these things changing. It seems logical to think that if your back is arched or your hips aren’t level then that’s what’s causing your pain. This simply isn’t true. Being open to another understanding of why you have pain is often all it takes to begin returning to all the activities you enjoy by health professionals. If you’ve been told your spine is fragile, that message will influence how you move causing stiffness and protectiveness that’s sometimes subconscious. If you have been told your shoulder pain is due to your rotator cuff tearing you will naturally catastrophize when you feel that pain and visualize fibers splitting like cloth tearing. This will cause you to protect it, move it less and stiffen up around it. Unfortunately, it’s the education and your understanding about what’s happening that causes this hypervigilance and fearful protective existence.
What do you think is going on?
What you believe is happening can influence what you feel. If you think you are weak and fragile and you believe you are causing more damage by moving, you will have pain as a protective response. Your beliefs are often influenced by things you have been told by well-meaning but mis-informed health professionals. If you’ve been told your spine is fragile, that message will influence how you move causing a stiffness and protectiveness that’s sometimes subconscious. If you have been told your shoulder pain is due to your rotator cuff tearing you will naturally catastrophize when you feel that pain and visualise fibres splitting like cloth tearing. This will cause you to protect it, move it less and stiffen up a round it. Unfortunately, it’s the education and your understanding about what’s happening that causes this hypervigilance and fearful protective existence.
Your experience of pain- the sensation of it, how it has affected you, things you have been told about it, and how it has been dealt with to this point can contribute to ‘Learned Helplessness’. It’s where an uncontrollable bad event like an episode of pain, leads to a perceived lack of control and general helpless behavior around it. Learned helplessness is a control problem, not a competence problem. You can be a very competent, capable person, but if you feel you have no control over the pain you’re experiencing you’ll often become very passive. This may result in you giving up in a lot of areas in your life hoping to find some specialist or injection that might ‘fix’ you.
Loss of your sense of self.
Pain can absolutely control your life. It can take the important things away from you, the things that define you. These were often the things you took for granted, but now not being able to do them leaves an empty space in your life. Not being able to exercise or stay in the shape you want, taking away your pastimes and the things you do for enjoyment. The things you value. It can become difficult to spend time with family and friends and enjoying anything can be a struggle. This can influence your sensitivity and influence the amount of pain you experience.
Where can you be a bit healthier? Lots of people can have disc issues and meniscus tears but they don’t affect them. Being less healthy can sensitise you. Can you increase your daily physical activity? Is there a general exercise you can do that doesn’t cause a flare-up? Are you getting enough sleep each night? (approx. 8 hours) Could you eat a little healthier? How is your self-talk- are you too hard on yourself or do you can you see the positives? Are you learned to cope with stress? Anxiety and depression can also sensitise you but the good news here is that you don’t have to eliminate it to get out of pain, you just need to learn some strategies to help you cope better.
Here is the great news….
You can cope with any of these factors. The great news is that you sometimes only need to change one or two of these to make a difference. Even just understanding that these are relevant gives you more control over your situation which can help you move forward.
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