Understanding pain and what to do about it

Posted on January 6, 2021 by

Do you experience pain? Have you had this pain for a long period of time? Are you concerned that you will have this pain for the rest of your life?

Pain is often explained in terms of biopsychosocial factors, which are:

  • Biomedical – Injury or inflammation to a structure
  • Psychological – Factors that influence pain such as fear and anxiety
  • Social – For example, family or work stressors

Acute pain is pain that is related to a specific injury and typically lasts between a few days and up to six weeks. For example, rolling your ankle whilst playing touch football or straining your calf while sprinting.

When pain lasts for longer than three months, it is described as persistent pain (or chronic pain). Common examples may include Achilles tendinopathy in runners or long standing back pain in manual workers.

Persistent pain is pain which continues beyond usual tissue healing timeframes. This means that the biomedical explanation for pain does not explain the ongoing symptoms. For any pain presentation (and particularly persistent pain) it is important that we consider and address any psychosocial factors that may be present.

Social factors such as poor sleep and stressors (family, personal, relationships or work related) can amplify pain.

Fear of pain and/or exercise may also result in decreased activity and this can result in deconditioning. For example, you might become less strong, have reduced walking or running capacity and/or decreased confidence. Deconditioning and reduced confidence will negatively affect performance.

The clip below covers the difference between acute and persistent pain and the factors that contribute to the pain experience:

Understanding what factors may be contributing to your pain is the first step in addressing persistent pain.

Please consult your GP and/or Physiotherapist to discuss your pain presentation. Developing a plan to re-build your activity and increase your confidence is an important step in addressing your pain.


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