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Over the last 30 years working in physiotherapy, I have seen and treated thousands of people struggling to cope with chronic pain.

Typically they experience more than the physical impact of their pain – they become so focused on managing their pain each day that their lives and relationships are also damaged. I have also observed many people with this condition become less confident in their bodies and themselves.

They can become ‘grey’ in that they lose touch with their joy and purpose in life and they literally drag themselves through their day, just coping, without any spring in their step or positive outlook in life. Many are depressed and start to live a ‘flatline existence’, going about their daily activities in a mechanical, automatic way.

Chronic pain is one of the most common and debilitating conditions affecting our global population. 1 in 10 people worldwide have chronic pain, that is 10% of the world population, or 740 million people – that is a lot of people! In some regions of some countries the prevalence is closer to 25% or 1 in 4 people.

Bringing that closer to home, that is on average 1 person in every family in Australia in chronic pain, a condition that affects a person’s self esteem, confidence, ability to work and often their relationships.

The common and disturbing attitude that many people have with this condition is that their body pain becomes normal. Its something they just have to ‘learn to live with ‘.

Many resign themselves to having this condition for the rest of their lives and even more disturbing is that they identify with it and absorb their condition into who they are as a person.

But despite it’s prevalence it is not normal to live in pain and if you are one of the many people experiencing chronic pain there are ways to support yourself to lessen the impact of pain both emotionally and physically.

The truth is the body is beautifully designed to bring itself back into balance with its organ systems - its inner framework and its musculoskeletal system - its outer framework.

All we need to do, to support this natural healing process, is to reconnect to moving and treating our body more gently so that we don’t push our body to do something when its tired and we pull back from an activity when we feel our body straining.

By feeling our natural breathing rhythm it lessens the overall tension in the soft tissue of the body. This lessens the compression affect of the painful area and over time it often helps reduce the pain.

Soft tissue, called connective tissue, supports the body, protects the organs and allows that fluid pain free movement of the body. When I share this with the people I am treating they can feel how this tissue is more fluid with gentle movement and how it hardens and tenses if they move in a sharp hard way.

A key to understanding pain is in understanding that this tissue tenses when there is continual emotional strain.

When we hold our bodies tense with emotions like anger, frustration or anxiety it causes harm in the body. There is a tension that locks up the body that can be felt physically. This contributes to pain levels.

I support people to deal with and address the emotional conditions that are contributing to the pain, this often includes referring them to appropriate psychologists or counsellors. I also support people to reconnect to the fluidity of the body and to restore open elongated postures through simple smooth movements that free up their connective tissue and their body without causing more pain.

Through this process many have reported that they can start to see and feel how they can lessen the impact of their chronic pain and many realize that their quality of life can be greatly improved and that it is actually not normal and (also not inevitable) to be in constant debilitating pain.


References

  1. Hoy, D., Bain,C., Williams, G., March, L., Brooks, P., Blyth, F., Woolf, A., Vos, T.,…Buchbinder, R. (2012). ‘A systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain.’ Arthritis and Rheumatism, Volume 64, Issue 6, p.2028-2037.

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PainTensionHardnessConnective tissue

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    By Kate Greenaway, BAppSc (Physiotherapy), Post.Grad.Dip.Occ.H (Physiotherapy)

    I am a 53 year old woman passionate about supporting people to understand the natural intelligence and healing abilities of the body and how they can support this, return to natural vitality and well-being and enjoy their body again.

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    Photography: Rebecca UK, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.