We at ProActive Rehab have been doing a lot of learning lately on some newer understandings of pain science. We are looking at all pain but particularly the science behind persistent pain. Persistent pain, or pain of greater than 3 month’s duration, is a common aliment. In fact, lower back pain in particular is the #1 cause of global disability! By understanding pain better we know that we can help you and, indeed, you can help yourself more effectively. Pain is a complex issue and there is much to know and understand but a nice summation is the notion that pain is a loss or lack of homeostasis in the body – either temporary due to a sudden injury or prolonged due to stress, poor sleep patterns, nutritional issues, loneliness etc. So, if we look at pain from that perspective we can see the multifaceted nature of its existence and our experience of it. Further, we can extrapolate some important points around staying well – the 5 pillars of wellness!
1-Exercise: It is important to get regular, preferably daily but for sure on most days of the week, cardiovascular exercise for all kinds of reasons that are well known but it turns out that it greatly benefits your central nervous system and helps to regulate all things.
2-Manage Stress/Evoke the Relaxation Response: Human beings are not designed for constant stress. We have a very effective stress response commonly known as “fight or flight” and this serves us well in the right circumstances and situations. Our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) winds us up, arouses our senses and responses and gets us ready to deal with a threat of some kind. Trouble is, too much of this starts to have a detrimental effect on these same systems...enter the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Activation of the PNS has the exact opposite effect on our systems. Some call it “rest and digest”. When there are no threats around we can unwind, our senses can stand down and we can overall re-group and restore in preparation for the next time the stress response is required. Needless to say, it is not hard to see why daily evocation of the relaxation response is healing and restorative to our tired and weary bodies and brains. It turns out that this is a key component to achieving and maintaining that homeostasis that is so critical to wellness.
3-Good nutrition: Although nutrition is not within a physiotherapists’ scope of practise directly, feeding yourself with quality, nutritional, well balanced food is a key component to overall wellness and ties directly to the other pillars. There are several knowledgeable nutritionists out there that could help you more specifically on this topic.
4-Sleep well: The sleep experts tell us 7-8 hours/night is ideal. Although this may not be practical for all of us, learning to maximize quality sleep (create awesome sleep hygiene) and aiming for at least 6 hrs but hopefully more will really contribute to healing and wellness.
5-Social connectedness: Two of the components of persistent pain are helplessness and loneliness. Feeling like you are in this alone, that no one understands and there is no one to relate too are common feelings that get in the way of healing, achieving homeostasis and being well. Creating and maintaining your social support network is crucial to avoiding this pitfall and helping yourself stay well.
So, with that, being well is not that complicated. Practising the 5 Pillars will get you there. The hard part is taking the steps and making the changes required to actually practise the pillars! For more information and to further dig into this fascinating topic check out TheConnection.tv or of course, contact us at ProActive Rehab!