How Chronic Pain Affects Your Body


One in every three Australians will experience chronic pain at some point in their life. Chronic pain is debilitating and significantly affects all parts of day-to-day life, including your emotional health and wellbeing. If you are suffering from chronic pain, know that you are not alone, and there are ways to get back to doing more of the things you love.

Melbourne CBD Physiotherapy and Sports Medicinetherapists are highly skilled practitioners who use scientific evidence based research to manage and improve pain. They are the musculoskeletal experts, however they also treat neuropathic pain and neurological conditions. In collaboration with your GP and other health professionals, your physio can be an essential piece to managing the chronic pain puzzle.

Chronic pain is extremely complex, which is why many people experiencing chronic conditions present with feelings of frustration and desperation in their health journey. At Melbourne CBD Physiotherapy and Sports Medicinetherapy and Sports Medicine, we work to establish what your goals and expectations are for physiotherapy, and offer you the care and support you need to manage your pain as much as possible.

Why do we have pain?

Pain is part of life. In fact, it can actually be an incredibly useful guide to rehabilitation and performance. Pain informs you through the nociceptor nerve cells about potential or sustained damage to your body’s tissues. These nociceptors talk to the spinal cord, which then relay the message to the brain. Your brain processes this message and produces a coordinated response to escape the factor causing the pain. For example, when we touch a hot surface with our hands, our nociceptors tell our brain that the surface is too hot, with the immediate response being to pull your hand away.  

Pain can be a natural part of recovery and training as we work through niggling issues. In some cases, pain is a necessary response to increasing load and building the body to be stronger and more capable. But for people living with chronic conditions, pain is one of the most debilitating factors that can affect their daily lives leading to a physical decline, limited functional ability and emotional distress.
Why do we hurt? Do we actually experience pain, or is it merely illusion? In this TED talk, Prof. Lorimer Moseley explores these questions, and positions the pain that we feel as our bodies' way of protecting us from damaging tissues further. He also looks at what this might mean for those who suffer from chronic pain.

What is chronic pain?

We often use the terms ‘chronic pain’ and ‘persistent’ pain interchangeably. Pain is said to be chronic if it persists beyond the time expected to recover post-operation, trauma or another significant injury - usually three months. 'Chronic' simply means the pain is ongoing but it doesn't tell us much about the severity or quality of the pain. It can be unrelenting and very intense, and may progress to degrees of disability if it is not managed well.
Pain scientists starting to think differently about persistent (chronic) pain and its causes, are they're making exciting discoveries - like how you think about your pain can change the way it feels. Here Prof. Lorimer Moseley explains how pain works and explains new approaches to help reduce your pain.

When does acute pain become chronic pain?

Acute pain is seen as the normal and predicted physiological response associated with surgery, trauma, injury and acute illness. For example, if you have ankle surgery to repair a fracture, there will be a usual rate of recovery and pattern of pain associated with that patient’s demographics. Chronic pain continues beyond this. The nervous system behaves in an unusual way by becoming more sensitive, or with the brain misreading nerve signals as pain.

Acute pain can progress into a chronic pain condition if treated poorly or left untreated entirely. We find that the longer the acute pain remains untreated, the greater risk of it developing as chronic.

Patients with chronic pain will find themselves in a tough cycle of pain, which is not solely due to the progression of the injury. A person who has chronic pain, especially when they try to be active, will tend to avoid doing things that provoke their symptoms. Unfortunately, this sedentary defense mechanism will only lead to increased stiffness and weakness, thus worsening the symptoms you’re trying to avoid.

When persistent pain limits your ability to move and carry out basic daily functions like shopping, cooking, and spending time with loved ones, it’s natural that it will challenge your mood, self esteem, sleep and relationships. If pain is affecting your emotional health and wellbeing, it’s important to seek help.

What is physiotherapy’s role in chronic pain?

Though an important factor, medicines alone are not the solution to chronic pain. Physiotherapists play a collaborative and vital role in helping you manage chronic pain with a variety of approaches across self-management, physical activity plans and psychological techniques.

Common Types Of Pain Can be Treated with Physio

Pain can be a natural part of recovery and training as we work through niggling issues. In some cases, pain is a necessary response to increasing load and building the body to be stronger and more capable.

Well recognised chronic diseases may include migraines, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, nerve, pelvic, facial and abdominal pain, persistent post-operative pain and a host of other musculoskeletal ailments.

Common types of physio for pain include:

How do you manage chronic pain?

People who actively manage their chronic pain every day experience better long term outcomes than those who rely on passive techniques such as massage, medication or surgery. The approach needs to be encompassing and holistic to the individual, including:

Regularly working with a sport physio in Melbourne to assist with manual therapy, exercise prescription and assistive devices to rescue joint stress. 

Establishing a team care arrangement with your GP to find a collaborative plan with other health professionals you work with

Monitoring your activity levels, and scaling it according to each day e.g. walking, swimming, cycling, or running on the Alter G

Seeking psychological help to support your mental health

Improve sleep quality 

Find methods of relaxation that work for you e.g. Meditation, hobbies

Working with pain specialist to rewire your understanding and perception of pain

If you are suffering from pain, search for a "sports physio near me" and visit your nearest physiotherapy to help support you and develop a plan to gain more control. Make an online booking or give us a call today to find the best physio for you and book your initial assessment.

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