Chronic pain – categorized on this site as a pain that is not relieved within 3 months – is a very difficult condition to deal with. Usually a patient with chronic pain beyond this time threshold will know the issue will not heal on its own and they begin to find how much must be done to allow the spine (and/or surrounding tissue) to heal. Dr. Grant Cooper, a contributing author on Spine-health, was recently featured on Good Morning America to speak about chronic pain and how to manage it. His expertise is in nonsurgical management of back pain and neck pain.
Dr. Cooper’s two main tips for managing chronic back pain are:
Stay active – our bodies are not just capable of motion, they are designed to move. Dr. Cooper emphasizes that the best exercise is the one you actually do and one you will continue to do. You should try to find something you will enjoy and can make part of a routine, because the most important exercise for your recovery is one that you will continue to do. Some people may prefer daily workouts on an elliptical machine, some may prefer swimming, and others find going for a walk everyday most beneficial.
Don’t ignore pain – the “no pain, no gain” theory does not necessarily mean you should be pushing yourself to the limit. Exercises are usually begun without pain, and a patient may feel like developing pain during the exercise is okay or normal, but you don’t want to push the muscles (or any other structural component) to failure, especially when your intention is to rehabilitate from chronic pain. While it is true for muscle-building exercise routines the muscles have to be stressed, broken down, and rebuilt to get the result of stronger muscles, when dealing with a spinal issue you should be careful not to push the anatomic components too much and risk further damage to the injured area.
The role of pain management, such as provided by a physiatrist, is often to take away the severe pain to enable the patient to proceed with rehabilitation. The rehabilitation can be slow, but basic precautions and a consistent routine will foster the best possible recovery.
Watch the complete interview: