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Pain is alarm signals sent to your brain from you body, to tell it to stop doing what you’re doing. It’s purpose is to prevent things getting worse. So pain is needed, and can be dealt with, however, if it lasts longer than 12 weeks, it’s considered to be chronic.
Our beliefs and attitudes around pain shape our experience. And how we deal with chronic pain requires a different approach than dealing with acute pain. For example, rest and pain relief might not be helpful for persistent pain, but could be crucial when treating an injury. Psychology also plays a huge part in our pain, so mind-based management techniques are important. If you’re a bit fearful of pain, it becomes catastrophic and seems like the end of the world. The hypervigilant person is always scanning for pain. Their body becomes really sensitive to it and the alarm signal goes off too early. So it’s not that it’s all in their head, it’s that their body is almost hard-wired to be hypervigilant around pain and receive more pain signals.
Facing and overcoming fears around pain is different for everyone, but staying as mobile and active as possible is crucial for everyone. When you’re injured, one of the biggest barriers to
healthy recovery is fear of reinjury. This is where Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) comes in. CBT creates awareness of the thoughts that could be creating or fuelling pain. It can then help to start creating a sense of disassociation between the fear of reinjury and the actual movement.
After expert assessment and treatment, there comes a time to take ownership of chronic pain. You’ve got to see this as an opportunity for self-improvement and to learn something new about yourself. Taking control of your pain might be changing the way you move, your exercise habits, or simply learning more about your thought processes and beliefs.
A pharmacy is where many people in discomfort will go to searching for relief, as Taleesha Reedy, pharmacist at Unichem Silverdale Clinic knows well. “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a popular option for over-the-counter pain relief, as is paracetamol”, she says. But before reaching for NSAIDs, letting your body work on the inflammation is a good idea. “If you have an injury of any sort, you should wait at least 24 hours, so your system does a bit of work before you start hitting it with anti-inflammatories.” Once taking medication, a cautious “add-on” approach is wise. For example, start with paracetamol then graduate to NSAIDs. “We always recommend patients to use the lowest effective dose and the safest medication first. Only use them when you need them, and only for a few days at a time. You also need to stay hydrated as these medicines are metabolised in your kidneys.” There are heaps of other options for pain relief too, including skin rubs, such as Antiflamme, Turmeric and potential pain solutions found in the natural health aisle.