We all want to do what we can to reduce our or other’s pain. But incorrect, widely-held beliefs can stop us from making the correct choices. Here are three of the most common myths and how they reduce recovery.
Myth 1. You Must Rest When You’re in Pain
Newly damaged tissue may need a couple of days rest to help the early stages of healing. But thereafter, the movement advised by your doctor, physio, etc., will help healing and reduce the chances chronic pain.
This is because activity makes changes to our body and brain that reduce pain in the short and long-term. These include:
- Increases in muscle strength, endurance & flexibility. Without these, even normal tasks become increasingly difficult and painful, whilst the risk of other physical problems increase.
- The release of opiate-like chemicals (endorphins) that decrease pain.
- Increases in movement confidence. A brain that fears moving will act to protect the body in many ways which can lead to more pain. For example, a fearful brain can increase sensitivity to danger messages from the body, or stop the body from moving freely (guarding). Yes, guarding reduces the muscle strength, endurance and flexibility mentioned above – so building movement confidence and stopping that vicious cycle is key!
So always ask your trusted medic, physio, etc., when you can start to be active, what you should do, and how you should increase over time.
Myth 2. Alcohol Reduces Pain
Alcohol is often used to relieve pain, but its effects, if any, are short-lived. More importantly, excessive alcohol can increase resistance to any pain-relieving effect. This is because…
- The more alcohol you drink, the more alcohol you need to get the same pain-relieving effect.
- This can lead to drinking more alcohol as you search for pain-relief.
- But excessive alcohol increases pain sensitivity.
- This can lead to an alcohol-pain trap: More alcohol, more pain sensitivity, feel more pain, more alcohol, etc.
- In time, this can lead to alcohol abuse and more pain.
Alas, once in this trap, stopping drinking alcohol can increase pain sensitivity … which can lead back to alcohol.
So if you’re not already drinking alcohol to ‘self-medicate’, it’s best not to start.
If you are, you need to be honest with yourself. Be aware of how much you’re drinking and why. Get support from a trusted medic if you’re; drinking over recommended limits (14 units), drinking more to get pain-relief, or notice the pain-relieving effects reducing.
Myth 3. Admitting Pain to Others is a Sign of Weakness
Telling others that you’re in pain can be difficult for many personal and social reasons.
It can be particularly hard if; the pain keeps changing in severity/where you feel it, the medics can’t find a physical cause, and the person you want to tell doesn’t understand that pain has many physical, psychological or social causes.
But gaining support is one of the best things that you can do. This is for many reasons, including to:
- Reduce the stress that can increase pain.
- Reduce the need to push your body beyond its current ‘pain-free’ limits.
- Increase opportunities for positive social interaction and life experiences that cause the brain to release natural pain-relieving chemicals.
As pain has physical, psychological and social causes and consequences, the more you understand what starts and reduces your pain, the more you’ll know what help to ask for and the more people who’ll be able to give you support. This not only ensures you get better help, but reduces your reliance on a small number of people.
I hope this article has been helpful.
Go to NHS: Alcohol Support for NHS support information and other links to associations who offer specific help for alcohol problems.