Dealing With Chronic Pain
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many individuals who have dealt with some form of chronic pain for months, sometimes years.
One particular client was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, where she sustained a significant back injury. Following the accident, she experienced constant back and neck pain. Pain that prevented her from working, exercising or going out with her friends. She sought care from several physicians and was referred to a physical therapist who helped alleviate some of her pain. After several months, the therapist thought this person would benefit from Pilates. She was referred to me.
On the first day I saw this client, she was very guarded both physically and emotionally. She was afraid to move. Afraid she would experience pain. She had difficulty making it through a 30 minute session of simply working on the Pilates breath. She was not only still experiencing pain every day, but it had gone on so long that she had developed a fear of moving.
Pilates Can Help
We took it slow. For the first 6 months, she could only tolerate 30 minutes of Pilates each week. Despite this, she showed up every week. She was determined to get better. After the first 6 months, she began to feel stronger and more in control of her body. We gradually increased her Pilates to 2 sessions of Pilates each week for 30 minutes each time. She continued to see improvements, but again it took us another 6 months before she was ready to participate in a full hour session.
She is now comes 2 times each week for an hour each session. This client continues to deal with pain on and off. She will have good days and bad days with her pain and function. However, through her dedication, she has discovered that Pilates has given her control over the pain and her life again.
Working with this client and others like her, I have learned that pain does not just effect us physically, it also effects us emotionally and socially. Anyone that has dealt with pain, even for a short period of time, has witnessed how it effects us in many ways. There are many individuals who deal with pain for months, even years. They have witnessed how pain takes its toll on our psyche.
Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain usually arises from an initial injury, such as a lower back strain. However, it can be as a result of an ongoing illness. Studies show chronic pain, especially chronic lower back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability in the United States. Odds are you or someone you know struggles with chronic pain daily.
Some of the effects of dealing with chronic pain can include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Fear of movement or exercise
- Decreased appetite
- Mood changes
- Decreased social activities
- Decreased ability to work
With any type of chronic pain, the goal for most individuals is to simply get their life back. It is important for individuals dealing with this type of pain to explore the different options for treating the pain and the limitations he/she may be dealing with associated with this affliction. Some of the different treatment options that exist include:
- Physical therapy
- Relaxation therapies
Pilates is a method of treatment for chronic pain that has proven to be effective and long-lasting. It is a method of exercise that teaches the body how to move effectively and efficiently again. It is designed to strengthen the body from the core muscles out to the extremities. It is intended to rebalance all the muscles that may have become imbalanced. And many times it is those muscle imbalances that are the main cause for persistent pain.
Some benefits of Pilates for individuals with chronic pain include:
- Reduced pain
- Improved mood
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved physical function
- Increased sense of control over the body
- Reduced chronic pain symptoms
- Reduced sense of fatigue
- Increased stamina needed to return to social activities.
Here are some of the ways Pilates can help individuals with chronic pain:
- Pilates seeks to develop a strong core.
- Pilates strengthens the “powerhouse” muscles, including the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks and inner thighs.
- Pilates teaches and individual to move from the center (or the “powerhouse”) and flow outward to the limbs.
- Pilates teaches you how to move efficiently without creating pain.
- Pilates gives you a sense of control over your body again.
- Pilates releases tension in both the mind and the body.
- Pilates corrects muscle imbalances that usually occur as a result of injury or pain.
- Pilates is adaptable for all individuals despite his/her limitations, so that he/she feels successful moving again.
For most individuals dealing with chronic pain, it may not be about completely eliminating his/her pain. It is more about giving that person a tool that may help him deal with the chronic pain and enable him to get his life back. If you are dealing with chronic pain, talk to your doctor about Pilates. Find out if it is something you that might be helpful to you.