We have all been there. Suddenly, a jolt of pain comes from your shoulder, neck, elbow lower back or knee without warning or cause. Previously, an activity you didn't think twice about, now becomes the biggest worry and challenge of your day. Simple things, such as sleeping, climbing stairs or even typing might become a challenge.
Our minds race. What could be the cause? Is this a sign of something larger? What is wrong with me? How can I make it better?
However difficult, the best approach is not to panic. Despite being very limiting due to pain, most incidences of pain involving the muscles and joints are self-limiting. That means that eventually your body will heal itself and you will not experience the limitations of the pain. If you take a proactive stance and manage it in the correct way, you might even stimulate this process to happen quicker and thereby guide an effective recovery.
The first question to pop-up will always be, what caused this pain? Although there is no trauma to the structures, physiologically speaking, there might be an increase in inflammation in that area. Meaning that there is internal swelling, putting pressure on those structures and in the process triggering your pain responses. One might say, but nothing changed, how come this suddenly happened? And that is why the answer to this question is so complex. Pain is influenced by many factors. The biopsychosocial model reminds us to think not only of biological factors, but also psychological and social that might contribute to the pain. Even if you haven't fallen recently or done a heavy workout, your pain might be caused by increased stress at work or home, little contact with friends or even changes to your mood.
The times we're living in are focussed on instant gratification. Most people expect a quick-fix when going to the doctor and even physiotherapist. Our minds might demand this level of functioning. But our bodies have not reached that stage of evolution yet. Healing takes time. That being said, there are certain methods that stimulates the healing process and get us back to normal levels of functioning quicker. Let's take a look at the do's and don'ts of managing sudden pain.
When a person is experiencing pain, the main priority is to look for ways to decrease the pain. Something that will enable us to function in a normal way again. Something to get us through the day at work or let's us sleep enough to rest the body. These ways can include over-the-counter pain medication, placing heat on the area by means of a hot shower, warm water bottle, plasters and cremes. All these techniques offer temporary relief and are acceptable alternatives during this time of sudden, unexpected pain. These are aids for temporary relief and by no means will permanently remove the pain. If you feel like you're becoming dependent on these methods and the pain is persisting for longer than 3 months, it might be time to re-evaluate.
Movement is a very powerful means to stimulate the healing process. Movement might be contrary to what many might to accelerate the healing process, but it has been proven by many scientific studies. Movement helps decrease the pain reaction that the nerves are constantly sending to the brain. Simply put, it strengthens the brain's understanding of what is happening at a particular joint or muscle.
When moving in the presence of acute pain, it's best to move regularly and only to the limit of your pain. Forcing the movement might exacerbate the pain. However, easy, frequent movement to the threshold of your limitation will stimulate healing and help you gain mobility quicker. Doing movement specifics to the area and nature of pain can also help this. It's there-fore advisable to seek the guidance of a professional with regards to this.
The best approach is always a combination of many factors. Being actively involved in your own recovery is a factor that should not be overlooked. Consider what the small changes in your daily life might be that have a subconscious effect on your mind and body. Finally investing in a good office chair or making time for meditation might be a worthwhile consideration to manage your present pain and prevent it in future.
Have patience with your body and remember not to panic.
This post was written by a qualified physiotherapist. If you have any questions with regards to injury, please contact Healthy Office or your local healthcare provider for expert advice.