Practical steps to start moving on from the pain in your life!
The Chiropractic First team will soon be taking a short break to enjoy spending quality time with their loved ones over Christmas and New Years. We will miss taking care of our lovely community, so we wrote this blog as a gift to help you ease the aches and pains while we are away.
In this blog we answer common questions such as, “is heat or ice better?” and “how long should I rest for?”.
WHAT IS PAIN?
Pain is defined as:
“an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.”
~ The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) ~
This tells us that pain is not only a physical sensation. In fact, the sensation of pain is subjective. Two people can have the same condition or injury, but their experience of living with pain can be vastly different. Our pain sensations are influenced by our life experience, this includes our biology (what’s going on inside our bodies), our psychology (what’s happening in our minds) and our social environments.
We usually feel the pain in our body where we have hurt ourselves, however it is our nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and nerves) that interprets and communicates this painful sensation almost instantaneously!
Pain is often divided into two main categories:
Acute pain - lasts for a short time, occurring after trauma such as twisting your ankle, or surgery. Usually this pain resolves as the body heals, taking less than 3 months.
Chronic Pain - lasts for a long time, beyond the normal healing time - over 3 months. This ongoing pain can fluctuate in intensity, and occurs in chronic conditions such as migraines, arthritis (joint wear and tear) and osteoporosis (weakening of the bone structure). Also, when acute conditions aren’t correctly managed, the pain can become chronic. This occurs because of changes in the central nervous system (our brain and spinal cord), meaning the pain signals continue to be communicated even after the tissues have healed.
HOT or COLD?
Heat and Ice are a both common household treatments for all manner of musculoskeletal conditions, but when should each be used?
The general rule is: ice/cold is more affective for acute injuries and swelling, while heat is better for muscle tension, stiffness and chronic pain (such as arthritis).
Applying a cool-pack causes the blood vessels to constrict, and therefore reduces the blood-flow to an area. This helps to reduce and manage inflammation, swelling and bruising. It also temporarily reduces nerve activity, meaning that pain signalling is reduced, and therefore we get that “numb” sensation.
Applying ice or cooling packs is an essential part of the First Aid acute injury protocol RICER: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, & Reassure.
How to use: apply the ice/cool pack for 10-15min at a time, and rest without ice for at least 30mins. Use multiple times for the first 24-48 hours - and then around 3x a day over the next few days if swelling persists, especially after any aggravating activity. Using ice for over 20min at a time is not recommended as it can cause nerve, tissue, and skin damage.
Heat therapy works by increasing blood-flow to an area due to increased temperature. This soothes pain and relaxes muscles, allowing increased mobility, and helps to heal damaged tissues by increasing the nutrients and oxygen available for tissue repair.
Moist heat is the preferred option as it speeds up the heat transfer. This can be achieved by using a damp cloth around your hot water bottle, or placing a cup of water along-side your wheat-pack when heating it in the microwave - the steam adds moisture to the heat pack.
How to use: Heat is most beneficial when used for over 20mins, and can be used as many times as needed throughout the day. Be careful not to burn your skin - opt for “warm” rather than “hot” temperatures.
Topical creams and sprays
Creams such as Physiocream, DeepHeat and coolant sprays contain chemicals that alter the sensation of nerves. These sensations distract the nervous system away from the pain pathway, which can change your perception of pain. Use will depend on the product, so read the instructions to apply safely and achieve the best relief.
When NOT to use:
Both Hot and Cold - Sensory Conditions (the brain does not interpret pain effectively and therefore you may cause damage).
Cold - On stiff muscles or joints, and areas of poor circulation.
Hot - Infections.
MOTION IS LOTION
Our bodies are made for movement. Movement helps to increase our nervous system’s adaptation to experiencing pain, helping us both to shorten recovery, and to maintain our strength through and beyond our time experiencing pain. Movement also keeps your joints mobile which will limit muscle spasm and assist in maintaining healthy circulation to allow effective healing. The benefits of movement aren’t all physical, it also helps us maintain a happy and positive mental state as we work through our healing journey.
When you experience acute pain due to trauma, temporary rest periods in your day can be useful for healing - especially in the first 24-48 hours. After this time period it is vital that you move regularly within your pain-free limits, and progressively work towards returning to your normal daily routine. Movement is especially effective for those experiencing chronic pain, and assists in a quicker return to normal activities and work.
Prolonged bed-rest beyond 48 hours is often associated with a longer recovery time. It also increases your likelihood of experiencing depression, negatively effects blood circulation (higher risk of blood clots), and leads to muscle weakness (reduced tone).
Move! Don't take the pain lying down, move within your pain-free limits.
Use cold packs for acute injuries, especially where bruising may occur, or where swelling is present.
Use heat packs for muscle and joint stiffness, and to assist with chronic pain in conditions such as arthritis.
Get adjusted as soon as possible to help your Nervous System adapt and assist the body's healing process!
Lastly, if you are unsure about your use of heat /cold or your level of activity, please ask Esyltt, Justin or Jaquelyn for advice specific to you, we would love to help.
Take care, we hope you have a wonderful festive season and enjoy this special time connecting with your family and friends!