Haims: Pain looks different for everyone
Pain can be a perplexing concern to address. It can be influenced by more than just tissue damage. Pain can be affected by emotions, anxiety, depression, and pre-established beliefs and perceptions.
There are several approaches to address pain and pain management. I hope that the preceding three columns addressing pain have provided insight.
In this, the fourth and final installment of columns addressing pain, I thank Dr. Elie Sabins, a physical therapist and therapeutic pain specialist at Howard Head Sports Medicine for speaking with me and sharing information to help others learn more about how our understanding of pain can help rehabilitation.
Haims: So where do people go from here with learning how to control their pain?
Sabins: Pain is a very normal part of life, everyone will experience it at times. However, living with pain day in and day out is not. The good news is, there are a lot of different things you can do to control pain, and reduce its influence in your life. Like we talked about in the last article, letting your tissues gradually adapt to activities and increasing your understanding of pain are two great ways to start the change. Spending time with your loved ones, finding hobbies that you enjoy, as well as establishing a social support network can decrease stress, reducing the magnitude of your pain experience.
Setting measurable, attainable goals is another tool that can be very helpful when working towards getting back to the activities you love. Getting good sleep, moving your body regularly, making sure you get your heart rate up to release happy endorphins, and focusing on the positive aspects of life that you can do, may also have profound effects on your life. And this is just a few of the methods you can start implementing today.
But remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We want to make sustainable lifestyle changes that can help bring meaning to your life, and it will take time. So rather than trying to change everything all at once, it is much more feasible to start with a few small changes, and work from there. And if you need assistance getting started or along the way, your local therapists and health care providers can help you navigate this.
In addition to offering guidance with what I talked about above, there are many other aspects of combating persistent pain that physical therapists can offer. We can educate you with stress management techniques, specific exercises tailored for you, proven ways to get better sleep, and other ways to down-regulate your nervous system. While these articles are a great introduction, we can explain even more about pain and how it works in our bodies, as well as work with you to identify other factors that may be contributing to your pain experience and potential strategies to improve them.
Haims: Why do you feel this is important to health care and more specifically, Howard Head Sports Medicine?
Sabins: As we now know, pain can affect every aspect of someone’s life. That is why it is so important for us to address and try to improve this — as it can make the difference between an enriched, fulfilling life or one that is spent just going through the motions and trying to get through each day. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if people are coming to us for their knee, shoulder, back, neck, so forth, they are coming to us because of pain. They want to know more about their pain and how to feel better.
With the opioid epidemic at an all-time high and more people struggling with mental health now more than ever, we need to know that we have the power to make impactful changes in our lives all by ourselves. And there is no better day than today to start. The earlier you begin these changes and possibly get help if needed, the less chance there is that pain will become chronic. But that being said, no matter how long you have been struggling with persistent pain, there is still hope. So if you need us, we are here to help you realize your potential, goals, and maximize your human experience.
Pain is subjective and its treatment is not straightforward — it looks different for everyone. While medication may provide relief for some, sleep, exercise, and mind and body techniques have proven to be successful alternatives to medication(s).
For the past couple of months, Judson Haims, the owner of Visiting Angels, has sat with physical therapists Doug Emerson and Elie Sabins to learn about how new pain research is being integrated into the physical therapy practices at Howard Head Sports Medicine.