I talk a lot about chronic pain, mainly because the majority of my clients suffer from it. Having just studied acute pain, I thought it might be helpful to write something about it. Hopefully my ramblings will help prevent a few people’s pain from becoming chronic. So often I hear ‘I dislocated my shoulder ten years ago’ or ‘I had a herniated disc when I was 40’. For some people, conditions which start out as acute pain, can become chronic in time.
So, what is acute pain? For some reason I always think of an acute angle, like in a triangle, with a sharp pointy corner. This creates an image of intensity at a point and that is how I would describe acute pain – a sharp, or severe, sudden onset of pain. It could be caused by trauma or injury and is our body’s way of telling us that something is not right. Normally, most minor niggles will get better by themselves, however if it is something more serious, the pain is a message to tell us to look after ourselves, through protection and/or treatment.
Fortunately, the body is really good at healing itself and given the right conditions most injuries should make a good recovery. Of course, it depends on what happened – ligaments take longer than muscles and tendons. However, most things if not fully healed, should be well on the way to being fixed by 3 months. This is of course as long as the injury is treated properly!
Historically, advice told us to Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate (RICE) our acute injuries. However, current thinking suggests this guidance is actually counterproductive.
Particularly the resting part…
When a client has an injury, often it goes one of two ways:–
- I twisted my ankle; therefore, I must put it up and not walk on it for 2 weeks until there is no pain in it.
- I get a sore knee when I run, so instead of running 15km a day, I have dropped down to 10km.
It is unlikely that either of these approaches will lead to a speedy, complete recovery.
So, what should you do? The new mnemonic is, very appropriately, PEACE & LOVE. Have a look at the infographic to see what it means.
The key difference is to listen to your body. Gentle movement to begin with, gradually increasing the weight/load/activity as and when you’re ready. If something hurts, go back to the previous level. Understand the balance between giving your body the opportunity to recover, but also building it back up as it is healing.
But what about ice I hear you cry? There is no place for it in PEACE & LOVE (too cold hearted maybe?!), but the jury is still out on this one. It does help as pain relief, numbing the area, but there is no real evidence to suggest it helps the recovery process. Use it in the initial injury stage if it makes you feel better, but more importantly pace yourself, be confident in your body’s ability and know that you are helping the recovery through a measured, active approach.
If you have suffered an acute injury please get in touch as I can support you with your recovery, not only with massage, but also with selfcare to aid your progress back to full fitness.