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Acute vs. chronic pain

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Pain is a symptom indicating harm to the body. It involves both the mind, or central nervous system comprised of the brain and spinal cord, and the body, or peripheral nervous system made up of all the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. Your perceptions—beliefs, mood and attitudes—have an impact on your pain experiences.

Pain can be divided into two main categories: acute pain and chronic pain.

Acute pain is defined by the American Chronic Pain Association as pain that comes on quickly, can be severe, but lasts a relatively short time. The cause of acute pain is typically known; it may be physical trauma (cut, broken bones, sprained ankle) or inflammation to the tissues (overuse, infections, disease process).

Acute pain triggers your body to react with an action that would result in decreased pain. If you cut your finger, for example, the pain triggers you to quickly remove your finger away from the object you cut your finger on. Acute pain resolves once healing has occurred, which can vary from a couple of hours up to a few weeks depending on the cause. Treatment depends on the injury, but can include ice, resting the area, modifying the activity or medications.

Chronic pain is defined by the American Chronic Pain Association as ongoing or recurrent pain lasting beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury or more than three to six months. This kind of pain adversely affects an individual’s general well being. A simpler definition is pain that continues when it should not. Continue Reading »

Managing chronic pain with physical therapy

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Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from pain lasting longer than six months. Chronic, long lasting pain can be due to an injury or conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis. People with chronic pain can become less active because of their pain, resulting in decreased muscle flexibility and strength, decreased activity endurance and unbalanced postures. When someone has chronic pain, it can be difficult to know how to start an exercise program safely without aggravating the pain. Exercise should be an important part of everyone’s routine, especially if you have chronic pain. Exercise releases natural endorphins, or brain chemicals, that help improve your mood while also blocking pain signals into the blood stream. Exercise has another pain-reducing effect: it strengthens muscles, helping prevent re-injury and further pain.

This is where physical therapy within the Pain Management Program at Mercy Medical Center can help. Physical therapy starts with an individualized assessment to determine each person’s individual needs. Just as people have different body types, they have different patterns of movement, different alignments and different habits. Physical therapists monitor each individual and develop a program to correct what is causing pain. Most home exercise programs include gentle stretching, strengthening exercises, pain relief exercises and low-impact aerobic conditioning. If you want to learn about water exercise options or transition to a gym exercise routine, physical therapy can help with that, too. Continue Reading »

How occupational therapy helps manage chronic pain

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Chronic or persistent pain as defined by the American Chronic Pain Association, can be ongoing or recurrent pain lasting beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury or more than 3 to 6 months, and which adversely affects the individual’s well being. A simpler definition for chronic or persistent pain is pain that continues when it should not. Chronic pain can interfere with a person’s ability to engage in meaningful activities each day. Pain can decrease a person’s strength, coordination, endurance and independence in addition to causing stress.

With the help of occupational therapy, people with chronic pain can learn to manage the physical and psychological effects and lead active and productive lives. Many people with chronic pain already have received treatment with medication, surgery, heat, cold, nerve stimulation and massage. Management of daily activities and lifestyle can contribute to a successful, long-term strategy to cope with chronic pain. Continue Reading »

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