3: The Cycle
In order to explain a version of the chronic pain cycle, I am going by start talking about how helpful, friends and family are when their loved ones are having difficulties. In struggling with my ongoing lower back pain, I noticed how friends and family around me empathised and wanted to help in any way they could.
However, how do you tell your loved ones, that by helping you, they are not actually helping you get any better? -Huh? How does that make sense? Now this doesn’t apply to everything but, I will share with you my personal experience and I am sure anyone who has experienced chronic pain can also relate.
I’ll give you an example. I occasionally helped my mum carry the shopping from the boot of the car to inside the house. A relatively easy task. However, once my mum knew I was having ongoing back pain, she would insist on carrying the one semi-heavy box full of fruit and vegetables and leave me carrying a cartoon of eggs. This is just one example, however if this principle is applied to a number of activities across the day in order to “PROTECT” the back, this results in an overall reduction in physical activities. Continuing this for a period of time has two outcomes.
1: Physically, the body becomes deconditioned, losing muscular strength from doing less and resulting in the body having a lower load tolerance.
2: If someone is saying, “you CAN’T lift that” over and over, then it will rub off on your personal beliefs of your own abilities. This ultimately results in you too believing you CAN’T, causing you to physically not be able to complete the task anymore.
These outcomes feed in the chronic pain cycle. Your back hurts >>>>> you avoid loading activities to protect your back >>>>> resulting in increased levels of inactivity >>>>> you become more deconditioned >>>>> your pain gets worse >>>>> you do even less and round you go again.
When my lower back pain was at its worse and I stopped all the sport I was playing, I also ensured I wasn’t doing any movement which may have resulted in a back injury. For example vacuuming, making my bed, carrying heavier shopping bags and I avoided bending where possible, all to PROTECT my back. With all of this preventative action, my back did not get any better, surprise, surprise. So now my next question is, how do you keep doing activities and tasks which involve bending, lifting or anything that makes you think twice, due to visions of getting a back injury?
Now, the below advice is only relevant for chronic pain where there is no acute physical injury, with pain present for > 3 months.
In my experience, not once did I re-do a back injury from doing daily tasks around the house involving movements of bending, lifting and twisting. The only time I did re injure my back was when I wasn’t concentrating, moving too quickly or doing something silly. If there is a task which you would normally complete, however feel worried about re injuring your back, think, I used to do this all the time without injuring my back, if I focus on the movement and bend my knees correctly I will be fine. You need to give yourself CONFIDENCE that you CAN and focus on the task at hand!
I stopped running in circles the moment I realised I CAN! I can carry that box of fruit and vegetables from the car and I can vacuum.. Great, now I have no excuse to not do my chores!!
Beat the chronic pain cycle and say I CAN do it! I just need to take my time, concentrate and stop running in circles!
In my next blog, I will explore how the brain contributes to why a back that has no physical acute injury can be in so much pain.
Until then, happy moving everyone.
Feel like you can relate? I would love to hear from you.
Email me @: firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Samanna 🙂