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Pain is good. Well, some pain.
But how can pain be good? Well, pain is essential for our survival by protecting us from severe injuries, disability or even death! Pain can be an important signal, letting us know to pay attention to our bodies, and remove us from impending danger. Think about how pain has warned you when you’ve accidentally touched a hot pan or taken a sip of a piping hot coffee.
You might have said a few expletives and without a second thought, quickly moved your hand or mouth away from the source of the pain (the pan or the coffee). You see, pain is beneficial and makes up an important part of the defensive system that protects us from threats and helps us learn. Like a child who falls and hurts themselves, they’ll learn to avoid it next time. Its primary goal is to keep us safe from danger.
Of course, not all pain is good and serves to protect us. When pain becomes chronic, it becomes long lasting (longer than any apparent injury source or healing phase of the body’s soft tissue or bone). It is considered maladaptive because it provides no protective benefit.
In fact, pain with prolonged repeated stimulation can create:
1. Fearful anticipation of pain
2. Avoidance of normal or meaningful activity
3. Stress to other aspects of the body: tense muscles, limited movement, lack of energy
4. Disuse, leading to a cycle of inactivity and further reduction in function which can cause psychological effects such as depression, anxiety and fear.
These can ultimately decrease the person’s quality of life.
Many common age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis can become chronic in nature, leading to maladaptive behavioral and life changes which impacts quality of life and increases fragility.
As allied health members working in an aged-care setting, a large part of our mission is to assist with managing chronic pain by providing conservative interventions (e.g. therapeutic massage, exercise programs, movement therapy, TENS). This may temporarily ease a person’s pain, allowing them to participate in their normal or meaningful activity whether it be painting, crocheting, or just being at a pain-tolerable level to attend bingo.
We provide education to dispel and re-write the narrative that ALL pain = further injury, disability or danger. We engage in conversation or activities that distract and draw their attention away from pain.
Together with pharmacological therapy for chronic pain, non-pharmacological approaches such as physiotherapy are an important cog in the wheel to ensure our seniors remain happy and healthy. Allied health plays a significant role in assisting with pain management in aged care, which has a trickle-down effect of improving quality of life and function, reducing stress and allowing meaningful participation for people in the later stages of life.
Contact our Allied Health and Wellness Centre on 08 8344 6400 to book in with our dedicated team who can help you manage and live with chronic pain.