Acute pain vs long term pain 20 Sep 2016

So what's the difference between acute pain and chronic (persistent) pain?

This is a great question I have been asked recently and thought it was worth explaining here!

Acute pain

We think that pain comes from the nerve endings in our skin, right? Wrong!

The nerve endings (receptors) in our skin actually only transmit messages to our brain. It's the brain that then interprets whether these messages are "threatening" or not; and it uses many resources in different parts of the brain to determine this, including past experiences, senses, thinking and emotions.

The brain then sends "pain signals" to the body causing a multitude of responses, including the feeling of pain!

This pain response is amazing and helps us to be aware of injury and protect and rest the injured part of our body until it is healed! Then we can get on with our life and the pain goes away.

Persistent/long term pain

When the pain signals continue for months or even years this is described as persistent or chronic pain. The original injury may have healed (as the body is generally good at healing itself!), there may be an ongoing issue or there may be no clear cause.

People continue to protect themselves to avoid 'further damage' and the fear of increased pain. This reduces mobility/function, increases fear and distress, sleeplessness, fatigue, hypervigilance, depression and so on. This, of course, contributes to the pain experience and we end up in a vicious circle...(this is called the pain cycle)

Reducing suffering

Acute and Chronic Pain We believe that the pain system becomes "sensitised" to pain, (a bit like a volume knob that has got stuck on full, even though there is no musical instrument creating sound anymore!) and this is why pain persists. The pain circuits become broken as the pain no longer is helpful to aid healing but instead becomes a useless sensation and unhelpful to your body.

Always consult your doctor when in pain as they will be able to guide and support you throughout.

Try bowen therapy and find out how it might be able to help your pain.

Things that can reduce suffering in chronic pain

  • Increasing but pacing activities and short-term use of pain medication to augment this.
  • Outside interests, distraction, relaxation and meditation.
  • Having a value led, positive attitude, learning that the pain is not harmful, taking back control of the pain and stress management.

There are many things you can experiment with to see if will help (see the pain toolkit). Bowen therapy is one of these as it could help the body to restore itself, reduce the impact of acute and chronic pain and enable you to relax and de-stress.

What the pain toolkit shows is that it is a combination of things that can help to calm your brain and central nervous system down (which is after all what sends the pain!) and allow you to regain control of your life instead of the pain controlling what you can and cannot do. It will take time, patience and a large dose of 'being kind to yourself' but it is possible.

Download the Pain Toolkit Free

This short video explains pain REALLY well and simply!!

So what is a Bowen move and what does it do?

Here's a good simple explanation. Enjoy!

Muscles operate in 2 ways– stretch and relax. 3-d movement is made possible by the use of sets of muscle groups moving a joint, each contracting in a different direction. Muscles and tendons are full of many different nerve receptors that sense tension, pressure and position. They are part of the autonomic system for that area of the body.

Bowen Therapy uses a "move" 90 degrees across (perpendicular to) the muscle or tendon. The therapist places his/her fingers over the centre of the muscle belly and then lightly takes skin slack to the outer edge of the muscle. Slight pressure is then exerted so that the muscle is exposed to a gentle stretch. On the breath out, the practitioner "moves" their fingers across the muscle. This results in discharge of the nerve spindles within the muscle or tendon that can cause instant relaxation of that muscle or other associated muscles.

The receptors in the fascia that surround the muscle inform the nervous system of the state of tension, length or stretch in the muscles and tendons that are stimulated during the rolling part of the Bowen therapy movement.

In Bowen Therapy, these moves can have the ability to reset the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic (fight/flight) to parasympathetic (rest/relax and repair). This can result in greater blood flow, pain calming, oxygen delivery and restoration of cellular activity in the whole distribution of that segment of the ANS (both in muscles and organs). Posture can be restored and pain reduced..

An added benefit of bowen moves is the stimulation of lymph flow, which aids in detoxification.

So how cool is that? One innocuous move that seems to have a profound affect on the nervous system and structure of the body, that can help people in pain!