Most people will experience significant pain at some point in their lifetime. Whether this is due to an injury or an illness, the pain usually resolves itself fairly quickly. However, for some people (1 in 5 in Australia), this pain does not go away and will remain long after the initial illness or injury. For others, pain is a part of their chronic health conditions. So, if you are an adult performer and suffer from chronic pain, how can you best manage it?
Challenging Childhoods and Pain
The first thing we need to do to be able to manage pain is to understand it. Pain is necessary, telling us that there is something wrong in our body that needs attention. However, this signaling system is very sensitive, and it can easily become disorganized. This is because pain is a function of the central nervous system, which is like electrical wire running throughout our bodies and connected to our brain. Its job is to send messages back and forth and sometimes these messages can become confused.
Some people have more sensitive nervous systems, due to negative childhood experiences which increase the sensitivity as a survival mechanism. If it senses danger, then the alarm sounds and sometimes never stops. This more overprotective nervous system can then struggle with everyday life as we grow up. It can change the way we process things, resulting in very real physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues, headaches and back pain, with seemingly no cause. A nervous system running at full steam all the time can contribute to the development of long-term chronic diseases, particularly those that involve inflammation.
Pain After Illness or Injury
For some, the onset of their chronic pain starts after an injury or illness. The central nervous system is extremely flexible and can pick up habits very quickly. Which means once it has “practiced” the pain signal with a symptom, then it will continue to signal “pain” when it comes across that symptom again. This is called a “learned neural pathway” and is key to understanding pain, in both those who’ve had adverse childhood challenges and those whose first experience with chronic pain was an illness or injury. Neural pathways can change a brain, becoming more and more sensitive when the pathway is practiced.
Although chronic pain does have a lot to do with the function of the nervous system, as opposed to where we feel the pain, it is a very real and distressing experience for those who live with it.
The management of chronic pain is constructed like a three legged stool, made up of physical, psychological and social factors. Chronic pain is a mind-body issue and all legs of the stool need to be addressed equally to make progress in management.
Pain relief medications have been shown to reduce pain by only 30% when used without any other treatment. Managing chronic pain requires additional strategies and some that work for others may not work for you. Aside from pacing, exercise and improving your sleep which I have discussed in earlier posts, there are a range of things you can do to help get on top of your pain and work at your best.
In my next post on this subject, I will talk through some of the strategies that you can use to manage chronic pain and how to implement them to fit with your work.
NOTE: The information in this article is for general use and to provide additional resources to your current care plan. It is not intended to replace the care provided by your health professional.
Rem Sequence is an Australian adult content creator, blogger and internationally published alt model. She has a background in psychology, philosophy and political science and has worked in health and sex education, youth work and trauma counseling for almost two decades. Contact Rem via firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her on Twitter at @remsequence.