How movement and mindfulness can help chronic pain

This week is National Pain Week, organised by Chronic Pain Australia to champion the needs of the many Australian’s living with chronic pain. At Elevate, our practitioners are focused on you living a healthier, happier life without pain so understanding pain in the body, where it originates and how to alleviate it is key to our treatments.

We asked our highly experienced Osteopaths a few questions about chronic pain and how mindfulness and movement can help.

Dr Phil Austin and Dr Matt Everitt have a wealth of knowledge between them and you might be surprised by their holistic approach to pain management. Manual therapy is certainly the first step in treatment for injuries and pain due to stresses on the body, but there is a lot more to treating pain. This is especially true for chronic pain.

Dr Austin defines chronic pain as a pain condition that lasts longer than 6 months with at least 3 months continuous pain for no reason – the pain goes beyond expected healing time and is usually strongly associated with stress and anxiety.

Although common areas for pain include head, neck, shoulder, sinus, lower back, nerve, and the lower abdominal area, pain usually overlaps across several body systems affecting the soft tissue, joints, muscles, and nerves – and with chronic pain this can be widespread.

Dr Austin, an expert in pain management with a PhD in Pain Medicine, explains there is a strong association with chronic pain and people who are stressed and anxious because these people tend to spend more time focussed on their pain and this in turn results in the severity or intensity of the pain increasing.

As part of his research, Dr Austin likes to educate people on how to take their attention away from pain using techniques such as mindfulness and yoga, which work well together in destressing the body and mind, and in turn relieving pain.

He explains “Stress, anxiety, and negative emotions can intensify pain signals and increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. Learning to take control and reducing stress levels can help to provide relief from chronic pain. Learning meditation and deep breathing methods helps the body to relax, which in turn may ease pain by reducing nerve pain signals and tension in tight muscles.”

Dr Everitt is a movement coach and is also a big believer in teaching people with chronic pain self-help techniques to deal with their pain. In particular, he likes to focus on body function and movement.

He explains, “We can all improve the way we move. This gives you the independence to deal with pain on your own terms. A big pitfall people fall into following treatment is that they rehabilitate themselves out of pain, but not out of dysfunction. I have had countless patients return a few months after their treatments with their pain returned having gone through a period of being pain free. When I ask them if they are still doing their self help exercises they tell me they stopped when the pain stopped. At this point you have rehabilitated yourself out of pain but you are still on a knife edge. Its easy to drop back into patterns that will bring the pain back. Pain is a warning system at the end of dysfunction, not the start of it. To be pain free, you need to continue to work on your movement patterns otherwise the pain will return.”

Dr Everitt stresses that people need to understand that pain Is not always associated with ongoing damage. He explains “There is a huge psychological association with pain, if you perceive it as being serious, the pain is worse.”

Osteopaths have an in-depth understanding of the mind-body connection and aim to restore balance and function by addressing all aspects related to human health. They uphold the view that the body functions as a whole unit and it requires all systems to be in sync for optimal health and wellness.

Read more about our osteopaths and how they can treat your injuries and pain.

Dr Phil Austin

Dr Matt Everitt

Call our clinic on 9252 2225 for to book an appointment with Dr Everitt or Dr Austin.

Lachlan A McWilliams, Brian J Cox, Murray W Enns, Mood and anxiety disorders associated with chronic pain: an examination in a nationally representative sample, Pain, Volume 106, Issues 1–2, 2003, Pages 127-133.
Geert Crombez, Chris Eccleston, Frank Baeyens, Boudewijn Van Houdenhove, Annelies Van Den Broeck, Attention to chronic pain is dependent upon pain-related fear, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 47, Issue 5, 1999, Pages 403-410.
Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, et al. Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2017;51(2):199-213.
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