National Pain Week is an annual awareness event coordinated each year by Chronic Pain Australia, this year it falls between 25th to 31st July. Chronic pain affects over 3.6 million Australians; this could be your partner, family, or you so it is important we raise awareness together and work towards accessible care for all!
What is Pain?
Pain can be defined as an unpleasant bodily sensation caused by activation of the nervous system. Peripheral nerves, the spinal cord and brain all comprise the nervous system and each play a role in the production of pain.
Body tissues have special pain receptors that respond to stimuli they perceive as being dangerous to the body. Stimuli can be chemical, thermal or mechanical. The pain receptors transmit a message to the spinal cord where the pain signal is then transmitted to different areas of the brain.
Pain is a protective mechanism for the body, and it will occur when the nervous system perceives there is evidence that the body is in danger. Pain typically occurs after an acute injury or illness, however sometimes pain can persist for long periods of time. When pain lasts beyond the normal time for tissue healing it can be more closely associated with protective changes to the nervous system rather than tissue damage.
Our body has the ability to make changes to our nervous system through a process called bioplasticity – this means our nervous system can become overprotective and more sensitive to pain stimuli over time. These changes mean pain can be produced even when there is no longer any tissue damage or danger to the body. Other factors like stress and anxiety also impact the nervous system and can cause pain signals to be upregulated.
Pain and Exercise
Research indicates that physical activity has significant benefits for persistent pain conditions including neck pain, back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis and many others. Physical activity helps to keep the body fit and strong but also has added benefits for pain management. During physical activity endorphins and other pain-mediating chemicals are released. Physical activity also has an anti-inflammatory effect, decreases the sensitivity of the nervous system to pain stimuli, reduces stress and improves sleep quality.
If you are dealing with persisting pain, it is important to speak to a professional about what type of physical activity is the most suitable. To get individualised advice, book in with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist online or phone Rural Health on 02 5926 3806.