Chronic pain is long-lasting, ongoing pain that doesn’t go away and affects the quality of life of those affected. It is estimated that 60-83% of Australian aged care residents are affected. Alarmingly, chronic pain is often seen as ‘normal part of ageing. It isn’t!
Osteopaths play a critical role in assisting people to live with chronic pain; we work across the lifespan, assisting patients to manage their pain with the aim of;
- Diminishing the frequency and intensity of pain
- Improving quality of life where possible
- Preventing newer injuries from developing into chronic pain
Types of pain
Acute pain is generally accepted to be the pain associated with acute tissue damage. The damage may be due to an event such as an injury or surgery or an active disease process within the tissues. The pain is considered to be driven by peripheral factors responding to the tissue injury. As normal tissue structure is re-established, the inflammation process resolves and tissue healing takes place, pain should also resolve.
Pain in this situation provides an effective warning system, protecting vulnerable tissue, and is a symptom related to a distinct pathological condition or surgical procedure. When pain does not resolve it is relabelled persistent pain, or chronic pain. Pain lasting for longer than three months can generally be classified as chronic pain.
Chronic pain patients continue to feel pain after the original source of pain is healed or no longer present. This can also lead to sleep disturbance, reduced mood or depression and avoidance or fear of normal movements and activities. All of these factors then lead to more pain, this is what we call a maladaptive or unhelpful response that no longer serves the purpose of injury repair and recovery.
Pain that becomes chronic is linked to changes in the nervous system, whereby the nerves supplying the previously damaged tissues become highly sensitised, creating abnormal pain responses.