I have a bad back.
People often say that when they come to me with recurrent low back pain.
You could replace back with knee, hip, shoulder, elbow or any other painful body part.
I’ve heard it all.
But I’m here to dispel the myth of bad body parts.
There’s Usually A Reason
It’s impossible to determine cause and effect in a complex system.
But when people tell me there was no reason for their pain, I dig a little deeper.
What usually emerges is that something had changed before the onset of pain.
Of course this doesn’t mean that change is the cause of their pain, only that something changed.
Sometimes this change occurs so gradually, it’s barely perceptible.
Pain Is Protective
Usually, we will feel pain before we have done anything serious – as in injury.
Pain is a protective output of the brain.
It is generally a good thing, that keeps us safe, but it can become a problem in and of itself.
When you experience pain it usually means that your brain is trying to protect you .
You feel pain in a body part, but your brain is trying to protect you as much as it is trying to protect your sore body part.
After all, you are what’s important to your brain. Without you, it ceases to exist.
The Recurrent Pain Cycle
What we can see is a pretty typical cycle for many people.
The problem is, they never get better until something breaks that cycle.
As you can see, something is missing. Change.
If we could create meaningful and lasting change, maybe we would have less recurrent pain?
Resilience and Adaptability
Resilience is not about being strong, though that is a component.
Resilience is able being able to withstand a variety of stressors.
Adaptability is about being able to responds to a variety of stressors.
These stressors can be physical, psychological, environmental or whatever else.
How do we develop this?
Graded exposure is a psychological technique.
It involves exposing yourself to situations that scare you, in a manner that allows you to control your fear.
Over time, you become less fearful and can increase your exposure.
Often pain is associated with movements, social settings or other contexts.
By applying the principles of graded exposure to pain, we can desensitise your response to certain contexts.
Desensitising is the first step to breaking the recurrent pain cycle.
Optimise Your Senses
Having limited sensory input can affect pain.
Sensory input is the information your brain receives from nerves throughout the body. This can be from muscles, tendons joints and organs.
When the brain receives better sensory input, it can better interpret each situation and respond accordingly.
There are 3 main impairments to sensory input relevant to osteopaths:
- Past injuries that haven’t been completely rehabilitated
- Soft tissues and joints that are stiff and/or immobile
- Under-stimulation due to lack of use
Improving your sensory input improves your adaptability.
Yet, even with perfect sensory input, you can only adapt as much as your health allows.
Adaptability isn’t only a neurological attribute. Or even a physiological attribute.
Adaptability is a human attribute.
Load: Progressively and Contextually
Loading develops resilience.
But, if you are not adaptable, then you can only load so far before you break down.
This is why we seek to enhance adaptability and resilience.
Loading about more than lifting weights.
It is about challenging yourself across a variety of environments, contexts, movements etc.
Remember, resilience is not only physical.
Resilience, like adaptability is a human attribute.
Humans are physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual.
It is important to development resilience across all the entire human spectrum.
Recurrent pain is a form of chronic pain.
People often don’t consider it chronic, because it isn’t constant.
To break the recurrent pain cycle, you need to identify why your pain is recurring.
Then you need take the necessary steps to change.
This can be hard, which is why you should get help along the way.
Only when you create meaningful change will your pain change in a meaningful way.
This blog post was written by Dr Nick Efthimiou (Osteopath), founder of Integrative Osteopathy.
This blog post is meant as an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a qualified and registered health professional.