Chronic Pain: Taming the Beast.

Chronic Pain is defined as pain that persists for more than 3 months or longer than the amount of time healing should usually take after trauma or surgery.

Chronic Pain is less to do with tissue injury and more to do with our Central Nervous System. It’s like the volume button on the Pain System has been left turned up.

Over 28 million in the UK are affected, and 70% of these people are under 60 years old. So if you are one of the lucky ones not to suffer, chances are you have a close friend or family member who does.

Back and neck pain, arthritic pain and fibromyalgia are all commonly related. As pain is “invisible” it can be hard to communicate what you are going through and the impact on mobility, emotional health and relationships.

GPs may treat pain with medication and this can be necessary and helpful, but an even better strategy is a combination of exercise and reducing stress, allied with physiotherapy such as gentle manual therapy or acupuncture.

Walking, swimming, cycling and exercises such as Yoga and Pilates are well recognised as being helpful for Chronic Pain. However often when you have been experiencing pain for a long time, even small amounts of exercise may seem overwhelming and unachievable. You may have tried exercise and found it made things worse.

This is because pain is a protector and when you have had pain for a long time it is not an accurate measure of tissue damage. So movement may hurt, when it’s not actually causing you harm – your body has become overly sensitised.

Therefore, when you have chronic pain, it’s really important to get tailored advice to help you understand that a lot of the aches and pains with exercise are not harmful or causing additional damage.

“Motion is Lotion” and your physiotherapist can give you 1:1 advice to help you steadily and safely re-train your pain system, build confidence in exercising and improving your joint mobility, muscle strength and overall body fitness.

By helping with these initial smaller steps, this may help you to then be able to get to a Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates class, walking the dog or whatever goal you may have in mind. Chronic Pain triggers depression and anxiety so all these exercises can all have a reversing effect, thereby helping Chronic Pain symptoms long term.

The On-Line Pain Tool Kit written by Chronic Pain sufferer Pete Moore, is a really helpful resource, full of detailed tips to help those with Chronic Pain improve their life.

Key points include:

Tame The Beast – It’s time to rethink persistent pain” is an excellent 5 min video available on You Tube. This is the work of leading Chronic Pain Research Scientist, Lorimer Moseley and is a really helpful resource to help our understanding of Chronic Pain.


Mary Green. BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy/ MCSP, MHCPC, MAACP.