Improving pain management

Pain is a message created by your brain telling you to protect yourself.

Pain acts like an alarm, a warning sign and it occurs when our brain is telling us we are harming ourselves or could harm ourselves.

That way we can do something to stop it and protect ourselves. For example, when you touch something hot, the pain makes you move your hand to stop you burning yourself or limping if an area is painful.

What happens with pain

When we experience pain, it can affect lots of different body systems such as immune, hormonal, emotional etc. For example, we may feel sick or sweaty at the same time.
Although pain is complicated, it is not able to tell us how much or little damage has occurred or where it is coming from. Think of a paper cut, these can be really painful but have very little tissue damage.

The level of pain doesn’t equal the level of harm. Pain can also occur without damage or damage can occur without pain.

There are two types of pain:

Acute pain

Begins suddenly, helping to protect you and doesn’t last for too long. During this normal functioning, nerves send messages from injured or inflamed tissue to the brain to be assessed. For a short period, these nerves are more sensitive to allow the area to settle. This sensitivity reduces as an injury heals.

Persistent pain

Sometimes called chronic or long term pain, is pain that lasts longer than three to six months after normal healing times.

Persistent pain

Sometimes pain sticks around longer than it needs to but it doesn’t mean an injury hasn’t healed properly. The usual medical treatment doesn’t always work as easily for this persistent pain, and in some cases, doctors cannot find any damage in the painful area making it hard to understand why it hurts. When this happens, it’s like the brain and the nerves are confused, sending pain messages to protect you when they don’t need to.

All pain is real and produced by the brain.

As we can see, pain isn’t very simple to understand or manage. However, by thinking of the things that can turn up the volume of pain we can find ways to improve pain and make it easier to manage.

Things that can help

Pacing – ‘little and often’

Relaxation and calm

Doing things that make you happy/distraction

Exercise and movement

Some pain killers or medications

Challenging thoughts and emotions

Sleep and lifestyle

Understanding pain

Self massage, heat or cold

Who to talk to if you have concerns

If you’re concerned about your child’s health or development, talk to a GP or health visitor, or speak to a nurse, doctor or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child’s school.

Alternatively, get in touch with the Children’s Physiotherapy service.

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