Our pain experience is a complicated interplay of what we notice in our bodies, how we think and feel about it, and the influence of our life experiences. It is a real and unique sensation within each of us.
Did you know that many factors, including our beliefs, emotions, stress, sleep, relationships, and personal responsibilities can affect how we experience our pain?
We face challenges daily, and our bodies dynamically adapt to them. While these responses help us address the immediate situation, they may not be helpful in the long run. For example, let’s take a look at the way we hold our bodies. Our muscles need to have a healthy balance between tension to contract and move, and relaxation to lengthen and rest. When we feel stress, we may notice increased muscle tension in our neck and back, which may be a helpful guarding mechanism. Stress can interfere with optimal muscle balance by holding muscles in contraction until our nervous system no longer feels stressed. Prolonged stress, and therefore, prolonged muscle tension can lead to increased pain. Similarly, our stress and emotions may be expressed in various forms, such as lashing out at others, turning on ourselves, running away, or shutting down completely. Such behaviour may be helpful defence mechanisms in some situations, but with persistent pain we may develop responses that contribute to loneliness and anxiety. Over time, we may lose our sense of identity and independence.
Each person has a unique combination of internal and external factors that influence their pain experience. It’s important to address all contributing factors for meaningful and sustainable management of persistent pain. Identifying and targeting these factors can reduce pain and improve overall quality of life. Mindfulness-based practices influence your body’s stress response and help to balance your nervous system to improve your pain experience.
Occupational therapy at Markham Rheumatology Hub offers solution-focused and holistic management of pain using: Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia, Somatic therapy, and Yoga therapy.
Contact us to learn more about our upcoming free Understanding Persistent Pain workshop.
Dilini Mohan, Occupational Therapist