Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined in the broadest sense as “pain that persists or recurs for over 3 months”. More specific definitions break it down into primary and secondary categories.

Chronic pain is multifactorial

Primary Chronic Pain

Classification as “Primary” and “Secondary” refers to the cause of the pain. Primary Chronic Pain is defined as “disability or emotional distress and not better accounted for by another diagnosis of chronic pain”.

Conditions in this category include:

Secondary Chronic Pain

Secondary Chronic Pain, therefore, is long term pain secondary to something else. This category has been broken into 6 types based on the cause, including post-trauma, headache, and cancer. Some of these types are more relevant to osteopathy than others, such as Chronic Secondary Musculoskeletal Pain. Examples of this include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Frozen shoulder after shoulder surgery
  • Chronic forms of symptomatic headaches (for example, cervicogenic headaches)
  • Fibromyalgia

Some of these causes, such as osteoarthritis, provide an ongoing stimulus. In these cases, the aims of treatment are not just to ease pain, but to address the cause too.

How can Osteopathy Help?

Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners, meaning you can come to us without a referral or a diagnosis. So our first job might be to diagnose your pain. Management of pain will depend on the cause. In some cases, the cause may mean the most appropriate course of action is to refer back to your GP. The NICE guidelines recommend us in other cases.

The most important thing to understand about any form of chronic pain is that it is multifactorial. As with anything else we see in clinic, we examine our patients with the aim of finding any physical factors involved. But when pain is ongoing for over three months, we need to look beyond the physical. For example, smokers have a much higher chance of developing chronic pain than the general population.

Managing the Non-Physical Factors

In cases where the cause cannot be resolved, our main aim is to help you manage the other factors. The way you think about pain has a huge effect on how you experience it, and there are some really good resources out there to help you. This plasticine analogy might be helpful in accepting the pain you have without sacrificing yourself:

Research shows that positive touch can reduce pain. Osteopathy is a hands-on therapy, so this benefit is built into our treatment. We also know that understanding pain helps to dull it: a scratch on the leg feels much less painful when you know it’s not a snake bite. Osteopaths have the luxury of time, so we can help you here. If your neck pain started when someone told you your spine was “crumbling”, tell us. You’ll most likely feel a bit better as soon as we’ve explained that that was just a terrible choice of words!

Book an appointment today to get started with your chronic pain.