Category Archives: Chronic pain

15Feb/15
Georgie

CRPS | Georgie’s Story

Georgie suffers with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which is a condition that can feature the most severe and extraordinary pain and symptoms. Soon after starting to work together, Georgie told me that she wanted to raise the awareness of CRPS and chronic pain. For some months we played with ideas, culminating in ‘UP’ — Understanding Pain.

UP has a mission. This is to raise awareness that chronic pain is the largest global health burden and that one of the biggest problems is the lack of understanding of pain. This leads to poor communication about chronic pain, low expectations with regards to overcoming pain, and poor treatment of chronic pain. Our aim is to change this thinking by raising the level of understanding so that people can see that there is a way forward. All too often the label of chronic pain is associated with isolation, hopelessness, disbelief and being discarded with regards to recovery. If only healthcare at large, policy makers, private health insurers and sufferers were aware of the facts about chronic pain based on rigorous research and pain science, than we can go about changing this situation.

This is our purpose:

  • Facts about pain so that everyone understands
  • Practical and effective ways of overcoming pain and living a meaningful life.

Here is Georgie’s story:

‘I suffer from CRPS – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. CRPS is a chronic systemic disease causing severe pain which scores 42 out of 50 on the McGill pain scale. CRPS has many symptoms including skin colour changes and temperature changes from hot to cold, burning pain, stabbing like pains, numbness, pins and needles to name but a few. It can often start in one limb following an injury or surgery, some cases with no known injury and the disease can spread to other limbs and in some cases throughout the whole body. CRPS has a major impact on day to day life, it is debilitating and has a negative impact physiologically for the patient, their family and friends around them.

My story

When I was young, I was always very athletic. I came first in sprinting, loved horse riding and I was very good at gymnastics. I also had an artistic streak, studying piano, singing and gained honors in grade 8 organ. What I didn’t realise then was that I had hypermobility. This is not necessarily a bad thing as for gymnasts/dancers and musicians/ singers this means you are more flexible, which can be an advantage. But it can sometimes trigger other underlying possible conditions. I was not aware of my hypermobility until recently and it now explains so much about my life.

Once I left school, it took me a while to know what I wanted to do, I was an office junior, a travel agent, and then I went to Australia for what was supposed to be 12 months on a working travel visa. I travelled from Perth to Sydney by bus taking plenty of stops until I got to Melbourne. One day I woke up in my hostel room and I was unable to see properly. I got myself to hospital and they just told me I wasn’t eating properly which was common in travellers. I then took a 4 day bus to Sydney during this time my sight deteriorated. I then went to hospital in Melbourne and I was told I had Bilateral Papillitis a swelling of the optic nerve and they were not sure what damage it may do to my sight. I am not sure if this is related to my condition but I am not ruling that out. I spent so many hours listening to music and this saw me through my time there, I made a huge life decision and decided to become a singer…what did I have to lose? I wanted to live life to the full. I quickly returned home after being in the hospital for 2 weeks. The cause was never found after a few MRI scans, CAT Scans, Lumber Punches. However the symptoms reduced over 6 months on their own.

I found a college and became a professional singer. Of course, this is not the easiest path but I loved every minute of it. However from around 2002 I started to fall regularly as my ankle would give way, I would recover from one fall then months later have another fall from the weakness in the joint. In 2005 I had a fall that changed my life forever. I had fractured my metatarsal bone and badly sprained my ankle. I spent 4 weeks on crutches and started to realize something was really not right at all. My foot was freezing cold, it was black and purple in color and was highly sensitive to touch. I had drop foot and could not move my foot at all. The pain was unbearable burning, stabbing, shooting pains, pins and needles, numbness. I went back to the hospital who immediately knew something wasn’t right and after some 12 weeks in physio and after more scans I was informed that I had CRPS – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The first thing my physio said was don’t read anything on the internet it will just scare you, it will be a long journey and there is no guarantee of a good outcome. I had some treatment in the Surrey hospital undergoing a 
Guanethidine Block under sedation. Then my treatment was moved to St Mary’s in Paddington under the care of Dr Jenner.

I had many Guanethidine Blocks every 2 weeks nearly, but these were so traumatic for me that after a year I was unable to take any more treatment – my body was too week and after the last procedure the doctors found it too difficult to wake me up. I was on a cocktail of tablets to ease the pain. But I had no life left. I couldn’t work, I was on crutches or wheelchair bound for 3 years and my life felt completely hopeless. Depression started to set in, it felt like the darkest and most lonely place. Many of my friends were unable to understand and completely unable to help me, I lost a few friends along the way. CRPS is completely isolating, its an evil disease and its not called “The Suicide disease” for nothing as many people give up the fight. If pain is all you feel what else is there? But I had so much to live for and I am a fighter. I loved music and in those times of darkness it saw me though.

One day I started to write music again I don’t even know what inspired me, I just picked up my pen and started to write. I thought I had lost all of my passion, but there it was again still inside somewhere and I’m so glad I found it again. I wrote every day and I still do to this day. The music, singing and writing kept me occupied and in some brief moments made me forget the pain as my mind was busy creating. The music gave me hope back, if I could bring back passion, what else could I achieve? So I decided I was going to work at trying to walk to my kitchen and back to the sofa – now in actual fact this is only a few steps these days, but back then it took me a really long time, shuffling and holding on to everything I could find to hold me up, hopping, but I made it there. Now all I had to do was get back to the sofa with a cup of tea, this I hadn’t quite thought through and by the time I made it back to the sofa most of the tea was on the floor. I suffered a flare up after this attempt but I decided not to give up and little by little I found a way to make this small journey. Once I had achieved this, I started to make longer journeys to the bathroom and I even attempted the stairs. Going out without crutches was really scary, after 6 months I thought now is my time to try. Every week my friend Pete would pick me up for a jazz gig. He knocked on the door and I was stood there without my crutches, he asked me “Where’s your crutches” and I said “look…” I walked myself to his car (only a few feet away) with no aids. He started to cry. He said he couldn’t believe it and he was so proud of me. Pete is such a loyal and close friend he was there for me in some of my darkest times. From there I decided I had to try more and I wanted to find more to do in music. I saw an ad for Rock Choir leaders and I went for an audition, I tried to hide my limp and I got the job! (although, now that I know the Rock Choir team, I shouldn’t have been so worried about my limp). It was one of the happiest days of my life and I have never looked back.

When I started Rock Choir 5 years ago I ran 6 choirs. Before I started the job I was never sure how my body would cope – but it did and slowly I got used to my schedule and I loved every second of it, from training to rehearsals and shows. The adrenaline for me was the best part of it as it helped cover the pain I had and the music was so uplifting it always made me happy and lifted my spirits, I had never been happier. I was writing more than ever and started my own original band The Big Bads! Then just over a year ago my CRPS spread up my leg and into my arm and hand. This was devastating as it made it so much harder to play piano and do the one thing I love so much, conducting my choirs and getting to all my rehearsals and writing. I quickly realized that I would have to give up my morning choirs so that my body could recover and so that the CRPS would not spread to other limbs. I found it so hard to adapt and I felt so very low. It felt like all that I had fought so hard to have back could just be taken from me again.
I went back to my consultant who put me in touch with Richmond Stace, a specialist pain physiotherapist, to help me overcome the spread of the condition. He explained the condition so that I understood my role and what I could achieve, and taught me techniques including mindfulness, breathing, motor imagery and specific exercises. We talk about how I will get through some of my conducting, right down to visualizing and practicing the moves before I see my choir. I use nourishing techniques and try to remember to pace myself and move every so often into a different position. We talk though the schedule I have coming up and how best to manage it and every time I start to have a flare up we nip it in the bud before it develops. This year will be the first year in 10 years that I have not had a major flare up that has lasted longer than a couple of weeks!

I can see a future now; a future that means I can deal with the condition I have and co- exist with it. I would like to help others now to regain their lives from pain. I know how hard it is, but if I told you it was possible would you try too? I don’t want people to give up. There has to be a better way and if we can help more people find their path through the pain by understanding their symptoms, using music and techniques that work such as mindfulness, imagery, graded exercise, then that would make me even happier!

28Jan/15
The Chelsea Consulting Rooms

Specialist treatment for pain

Richmond M. Stace Specialist Physiotherapist & Pain Coach

Richmond M. Stace
Specialist Physiotherapist & Pain Coach

Pain is the largest global health burden. Those who suffer persisting pain will understand why, as the impact of pain creeps into every corner of your life. Fortunately we have a far greater understanding of the science of pain now, and hence increasingly effective ways of tackling the problem.

My background is in pain neuroscience and physiotherapy. I have also studied rehabilitation and general nursing, and the blend of these four disciplines has led to my modern approach to dealing with pain, and in particular chronic or persisting pain. The treatments, the rehabilitation strategies and pain coach concept have been created on the basis of the latest sciences and my experience in healthcare for over 20 years.

The treatment, training and coaching programme

I focus on working with people who suffer persisting pain. This is not limited to musculoskeletal pain, but any chronic pain problem, for example irritable bowel syndrome and migraine. Together we comprehensively explore how you have come to be in a state of persisting pain, identify the pain mechanisms and the factors in your life that influence the pain. This creates the opportunity to tackle the pain at a number of levels. This is important as we know that pain is multi-system (pain involves all body systems) and multi-dimensional (the dimensions are physical, cognitive and emotional; these interact and are not exclusive). To fully address the pain problem, all of these factors must be considered, which is why your programme is detailed and bespoke according to your needs and circumstances.

Change your pain and live your life

Change your pain and live your life

You may have decided to deal with an on-going problem or you may have tried different approaches before. Whatever your start point, the over-arching aim is for you to understand your pain and to learn how you can overcome the problem with a range of strategies, treatments, and training. The programme is built for you, allowing you to become your own ‘coach’ so that you think clearly about your pain and make decisions that lead to long-lasting and transformational changes to your life. You will be inspired and motivated by the work we do in your sessions to take the healthy choice, creating a sense of wellbeing so that you live a meaningful life.

Call us now to start your programme: 07518 445493

Richmond’s clinics are in Harley Street, Chelsea and New Malden.

 

26Jan/15
Richmond M. Stace
Specialist Physiotherapist & Pain Coach

About Specialist Pain Physio

Richmond M. Stace Specialist Physiotherapist & Pain Coach

Richmond M. Stace
Specialist Physiotherapist & Pain Coach

In 2006 I started the Specialist Pain Physio Clinic concept in London and Surrey to deliver innovative, neuroscience-based physiotherapy to tackle chronic pain and injury.

The treatment, training and pain coaching programmes are based upon the latest sciences and understanding of pain. The biopsychosocial approach that I use is the contemporary way of addressing persisting pain and suffering — considering the biology, psychology and social impact.

About Richmond

I am a Chartered Physiotherapist and registered with the Health Professions Council. Originally training as a Registered General Nurse, I developed an interest in pain whilst observing the varying responses in recovery after operations. I continued to train as a physiotherapist, I have a further degree in Sport Rehabilitation and a Masters Degree in Pain Science. My passion is in providing the best journey for you by using the latest therapies for chronic and complex pain. Seeing and hearing about your relief from symptoms, your development of healthy habits and sustained change is my aim for you.

Outside of the clinic, I write and talk about how we can globally change pain by understanding it, communicating about pain accurately, creating a definite plan and how to implement the plan in the most effective way.

I am part of the editorial team for the Physiotherapy Pain Association (PPA), a member of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), The Royal Society of Medicine and the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists.

24Nov/14
Sturridge thigh injury

One injury, and then another…and another….

Sturridge thigh injury

Sturridge | more thigh troubles

It is a common scenario sadly, both in professional and amateur sports. One injury, then another and another, each demoralising further. It is noteworthy that the science of pain would say that expectations and other thoughts about the pain and injury will affect the pain itself, potentially increasing the overall threat value — recall from previous writings that pain is a response to threat, and not to just that of the actual injury itself. We must consider any threat to the whole person, and this includes thoughts about oneself and one’s career.

When the body is sensitised by an initial injury, despite healing this sensitivity can persist subtly. In other words, at a certain level of activity there is no problem, no defence. But reaching a new level of training may then reach the current threshold that is not yet back to normal. The threshold is the physiological point where messages are scrutinised by the neuroimmune system that is already vigilant to potential threat. There does not need to be an actual threat, just a perceived one by these vigilant body systems, which then triggers a biological defence: pain, altered planning of movement, altered thinking etc.

The continuous journey back to full fitness requires a complete integration of physical and mental preparedness. As well as tissue strength, endurance and mobility, the controlling mechanisms must switch back to normal settings rather than protect — i.e. the upstream: muscles do what they are told by the motor system that originates in the motor areas of the brain, and the motor system plans and executes movement. The planning of movement not only occurs when the ball is about to be kicked or a run begun, but also when thinking about the acts or watching another. As well as these influencing what is happening, these are also great rehabilitation tools to fully prepare the system for the rigours of the game as well as ensuring completeness of recovery: the player resumes the right thinking, decision-making, motor control as well as fitness.

 

18Nov/14
Caring for our carers

Caring for our carers

help concept, special toned photo f/x, focus point selectiveMy simple message with this blog is that we need to care for the carers. Undoubtedly the individual with pain or ill-health is suffering, but so are the carers who may be partners, family members and friends. They may also be professional carers who are not immune to the stress of looking after someone.

In brief, here are some of the reasons why carers will suffer:

  • Seeing a loved one in pain
  • Feeling helpless
  • Mirroring pain — it is not uncommon for someone to feel pain in their body having observed another person in pain. Biologically this may be quite useful as a learning tool, similar to learning that touching the oven causes a burn injury; ‘I won’t do that again’.
  • Becoming absorbed in negative thought patterns
  • The physical demands, including the number of hours dedicated to caring and what it involves; e.g./ helping to move the patient, household chores — this often in addition to their own needs
  • Disturbed nights
  • A lack of respite
  • Feeling a lack of support
  • Financial worries
  • Own relationship issues

There are many other reasons, however the key point is that the demands upon carers are immense. One of the biological consequences is inflammatory activity in the body due to chronic stress. This inflammation underpins and affects the widespread aches and pains, the compromised health (feeling under the weather), limited resilience and motivation, varied and unpredictable emotional responses and difficulty thinking with clarity — see the interesting study below.

Carers are vital for both the person in pain but also for society at large. There are not enough resources to provide for all those with chronic pain and health issues on a day to day basis and hence we need to care for our carers.

For this reason, I offer treatment, training and mentoring sessions for carers. Ranging from the treatment of aches and pains to creating ways of constructively adding to the therapy for their charge, we also work upon resilience, problem solving and motivational techniques. These strategies are for that person to cultivate their own wellbeing, but also that of the person they are caring for at home. Partners commonly ask how they can be involved in helping the patient move forward, and I gladly reach them about pain, health and what they can do to contribute in a potent way.

If you are a carer, or would like your carer to be more involved, contact me to book the initial session: 07518 445493

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Greater inflammatory activity and blunted glucocorticoid signaling in monocytes of chronically stressed caregivers. Miller et al (2014).

Abstract
Chronic stress is associated with morbidity and mortality from numerous conditions, many of whose pathogenesis involves persistent inflammation. Here, we examine how chronic stress influences signaling pathways that regulate inflammation in monocytes. The sample consisted of 33 adults caring for a family member with glioblastoma and 47 controls whose lives were free of major stressors. The subjects were assessed four times over eight months. Relative to controls, caregivers’ monocytes showed increased expression of genes bearing response elements for nuclear-factor kappa B, a key pro-inflammatory transcription factor. Simultaneously, caregivers showed reduced expression of genes with response elements for the glucocorticoid receptor, a transcription factor that conveys cortisol’s anti-inflammatory signals to monocytes. Transcript origin analyses revealed that CD14+/CD16- cells, a population of immature monocytes, were the predominate source of inflammatory gene expression among caregivers. We considered hormonal, molecular, and functional explanations for caregivers’ decreased glucocorticoid-mediated transcription. Across twelve days, the groups displayed similar diurnal cortisol profiles, suggesting that differential adrenocortical activity was not involved. Moreover, the groups’ monocytes expressed similar amounts of glucocorticoid receptor protein, suggesting that differential receptor availability was not involved. In ex vivo studies, subjects’ monocytes were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide, and caregivers showed greater production of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 relative to controls. However, no group differences in functional glucocorticoid sensitivity were apparent; hydrocortisone was equally effective at inhibiting cytokine production in caregivers and controls. These findings may help shed light on the mechanisms through which caregiving increases vulnerability to inflammation-related diseases

15Nov/14
RSI specialist treatment

5 facts about repetitive strain injury | RSI

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Repetitive strain injury (RSI) usually refers to pain and other symptoms felt in the hands, wrists and arms, often gradually becoming more noticeable. Unfortunately, many people continue in the same vain at work without seeking advice or changing their habits, resulting in a persisting sensitivity that can become very limiting — often in relation to typing and writing, but this can extend to any activity involving the arms and hands. RSI is also called a work related upper limb disorder (WRULD).

1. Despite the pain and other symptoms (e.g./ pins and needles, numbness), there can often be no significant tissue damage or injury. Hence, debatably it is not actually an injury or even a ‘strain’.

2. It is common for the pain and symptoms to be noted on both sides. Despite the problem beginning on one side, communication within the neuroimmune system gran underpin ‘mirroring’.

3. There can be an altered sense of the hands — feel cooler (the brain perhaps not recognising the hands as self and changing blood flow), bigger, detached. You should report any experience to your healthcare professional because these are important features that guide the type of treatment and training you need.

4. Hypermobile joints are common within the overall picture — BUT, hypermobility is not a problem per se. Just look at all the top athletes. They are hypermobile! You may be a bit clumsy and walk into furniture. Body sense should be re-trained or developed if so.

5. RSI or the like can be embedded within other painful problems such as IBS, migraine, widespread joint and muscle pain. It is not just office workers, text-maniacs and computer users that suffer, new mums are commonly affected with the host of repetitive (new) chores.,

If you think you are suffering with RSI or a similar persisting pains, come and see me to find out how to overcome the problem — RSI clinic in London, call 07518 445493.

If you are a business that is keen to prevent RSI and other persisting pains (e.g./ neck pain, back pain), come and talk to learn about strategies that you an put into place to save money and increase productivity: 07518 445493

09Nov/14
Pain specialist clinic in London

My top 5 pain myths

In my view, it is the lack of understanding that causes so many problems with pain in terms of how pain is viewed, treated and conceived as being changeable. Pain can and does change when you understand it and think about it in accordance with the modern (neuroscience-based) viePain specialist clinic in Londonw and have a definite plan that is followed with big action towards a vision of where the you want to be. Having seen many individuals put this into practice, I am confident that the start point is always how we think because this is from where the action emerges. The right thinking begins with understanding your pain.

In the light of this, here are my top 5 pain myths:

1. Pain comes from a ‘structure’ in the body — e.g./ a disc, a joint, a muscle.

2. The amount of pain suffered is related to the amount of damage or the extent of the injury.

3. Pain is in your mind if there is no obvious cause in the body — i.e./ via scans, xrays etc.

4. There are pain signals from the body to the brain.

5. Pain is separate from how you feel or think.

There are many others.

Now, this all sounds rather negative and I like to turn this on its head and look at how we can positively influence health in order to change pain. The programmes that I create with individuals for them to follow are all about creating the right conditions in the body systems, all beginning with the right thinking that often challenges existing ideas and notions about pain.

Struggling with pain? Persisting pain? Call me 07518 445493 | Specialist clinics for pain and persisting pain in London

28Oct/14
Low back pain specialist London

Top 5 back pain myths

Back pain myths

Back pain myths

Welcome to my top 5 back pain myths. What are these you may ask?

Around pain and in particular back pain, there are many phrases and explanations used to try to educate the patient. These have been handed down through the generations and can appear to be logical. Fortunately, the science has moved on and we know better.

Here are 5 common beliefs that have been challenged:

**I have not included the myths of core stability because this has been well documented previously. Pulling in your abs does not solve the complexity of back pain, especially chronic back pain.

1. Bending is dangerous

2. Discs slip

3. Nerves are trapped

4. Pain comes from facet joints, discs etc

5. Low back pain is in isolation to everything else in your life.

Comments below:-

———————————-

1. Bending is normal. Sure it can hurt when the back is being protected, and when we have back pain the muscles are guarding and this can reduce the amount of movement. In the acute phase, most positions and movements hurt, but this is protection and it is meant to be unpleasant in order to motivate action. Moving little and often, changing position and breathing all help to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

2. Discs are not actually discs and they do not go anywhere. Yes they can be injured like any other tissue. They can bulge and affect the local environment, and they can herniate, triggering a healing response — both can hurt because protection is initiated. The fact that there are so many nerve endings around the area mean that sensitivity can arise in a vigorous manner. Again, this is a normal if highly unpleasant experience. Remember that a 1/3 of the population have such changes in their spine but without any pain. The body as a whole must rate the situation as threatening for it to hurt.

3. Nerves do not get trapped. Local swelling and inflammation can sensitise the nerves meaning that they send danger signals. There is not too much room either, so if there is swelling or a bulge, this can affect blood flow to the nerve itself and cause sensitivity to movement and local chemical changes. Again, this can happen without pain as well, so it is down to the individual’s body systems and how they respond. Understanding, gradually moving and breathing can all help ease you through this phase.

4. Pain is whole person and involves many body systems that are protecting you. There is no pain system, pain centre or pain signalling. Pain is part of a protective response when the body deems itself to be under threat. We feel pain in the body but the underlying mechanisms are upstream of the body part that hurts. To successfully overcome pain we must go upstream as well as addressing the health of the body tissues.

5. Low back pain is embedded within your lifestyle. It is not separate to how you live — e.g. lack of exercise, postures, work, stress, emotional state, previous experiences, understanding of back pain, gender, genetics, just to name a few. This maybe more complex, but this provides many avenues for overcoming pain.

Suffering with persisting back pain? Have other seemingly different problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches, migraines, other joint pains, muscular pains, pelvic pain, jaw pain, recurring bladder infections? Contact me today to learn how you can move forward and overcome your pain: 07518 445493

26Oct/14
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Pelvic pain in men

Pain is a whole person experience

Pain is a whole person experience

Many men experience chronic pelvic pain that significantly affects their lives. When we talk of pelvic pain, we often think about women and their suffering, however, this problem is one that besets both sexes and hence we must encourage all who endure such pain to seek help. As with any persisting pain state, pelvic pain impacts upon the way we think, the way we act and the decisions we make, thereby intruding on quality of life.

There are many reasons why men can suffer pelvic pain. To identify all the causes is not the purpose of this blog, but rather to highlight the problem and provide an insight into how the body becomes stuck in a protective mode. This is the experiential dimension, the story that is told and the narrative that provides all the clues. For the pelvic pain itself is downstream, and with chronic pain we must also go upstream to look at the context within which the pain is happening.

Most people who come to see me do not have pathology or ‘damage’ that justifies the pain response that they suffer. Some have nothing of note at all as shown by scans and other tests. Understanding that you can be in pain without an injury is an important step towards changing pain — for those new to this notion, consider phantom limb pain for a moment. Often there is a start point that involves inflammation, which shifts the body into protect mode. Protect mode involves many body systems, conscious and unconscious behaviours (the latter being habits and conditioned responses). When the body is protecting itself, the area needing attention and defending will hurt, but we also move differently and think differently — if you have a painful ankle, you may think twice about ‘popping’ out to the shop for a paper.

In many cases, these protective responses die down as healing progresses. However, this does not always happen, and with statistics suggesting that 20% of the population suffer chronic pain, many continue to experience protection despite the tissues healing — pain, tension, a different sense of the body (there are many other feelings and sensations described to me, and I encourage this narrative so that I can fully appreciate the story). My thinking about this on-going protection is that the body senses all is not as well as it should be. In other words, the individual is not fully fit, the tissues (muscles, joints etc) are not entirely healthy, behaviours are not orientated towards health, and lifestyle factors in which pain is embedded have not been addressed satisfactorily. This is a huge topic to address at another time, but suffice to say, as much as pain is multi-factoral, so is recovery, which is why a programme to change pain must address the biology of pain and all the influences upon this biology (they are also biology!).

Back to the pelvis, an area full of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and other soft tissues. From the pelvis ‘hang’ the legs, and on top sits the trunk. And let’s not forget the genitals, and both their importance and necessary sensitivity. The deep tension and pain that one feels in this region is truly visceral, radiating out into the groin and abdomen, accompanied by an awful tension and pulling in the muscles and testicles. Once the pelvis is grabbing your attention, it can be hard to distract yourself without learning how to change body tension.

Tim Parks - Teach us to sit stillIn this very personal tale of pelvic pain, Tim Parks describes his own journey via the book he wrote, “Teach us to sit still”. It’s a wonderful read for so many reasons, and I frequently encourage patients to tuck in. For me though, the bottom line is that Tim has validated a problem that needs addressing in a comprehensive manner, because so often there is no serious pathology despite the significance of the suffering. Getting to grips with this is part of moving forward and should be embraced. We do not need pathology to hurt. There are other reasons, one of which includes, as Tim says, sitting on your pelvis for 20 years and being stressed — this is by far enough to cause nasty pelvic pain!

What do you do when you are stressed? Tense muscles. This has an energy cost and impacts on the way oxygen is delivered to those very muscles. Consider exercising a muscle over and over. It hurts. It is exactly the same in the pelvis that you may be parked (no pun intended Tim!) on for extended periods of time. “I don’t get stressed” you may say. First of all, I don’t believe you (sorry!), because we all stress out at times and secondly, most of the time we are unaware of what our body is doing in response to our thoughts, environment and what we are doing; that is until it is too late — ooh, my ____ hurts because I haven’t moved for ____ hours (fill in the gaps).

So, what can we do. What do we need to do. Here are a few things that I believe are fundamental to changing what your body is doing:

  • Understand your pain and condition — that’s your clinician’s job, to help you.
  • Create awareness of how your body is responding rather than being on autopilot and then fire-fighting when it gets too much.
  • Think about what the body needs — oxygen to the tissues, especially nerves that become very grumpy when the supply drops (numb bum from being sat too long) — and make sure you do enough to nourish the muscles: move and breathe!
  • Go upstream of the pelvic pain, and look long and hard at your lifestyle and environments — e.g. How are you doing things? Where are you doing things? What habits can you release and change?

Chronic pain is a huge and costly global problem. The main reason why this is true is because of misunderstandings and the low expectations of successfully overcoming the condition (patients and clinicians) because the focus is upon treating ‘structures’ deemed to cause pain. Pain is not a structure, hence why this approach fails. The science of pain has moved forward hugely over the past 10 years and continues to deliver a new understanding. This new understanding challenges existing thinking, and it needs to. Pioneers of pain are hard at work and are finding ways to reduce suffering, and we can. It starts with a change of thinking based on new knowledge. Your knowledge that is translated into effective action.

If you are suffering pelvic pain, get in touch and start your programme to overcome your pain — call us now 07518 445493 — Specialist clinic in London and Surrey for chronic pain & persisting pain

 

22Oct/14
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Girls, stress and pain

Stress and painI have seen a number of teenage girls over the past year who are affected by chronic pain. They are often referred because of recurring headaches or migraines but we discover that there is widespread sensitive at play. How does this happen? Why does it happen?

Headaches and migraines can be functional pains. When these pains are part of a picture of sensitivity, often accompanied by anxiety, there are often other problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic pain and jaw pain. Whilst these problems all appear to be different, they have a common biology. Typically I work with women aged between 30 and 55 who suffer these aches and pains, but increasingly this is an issue of the younger female. Having said that, when I explore the story of an adult, we often find reasons for sensitivity that begin in childhood. This priming sets the scene for later events.

As adults we face many challenges. We have body systems that are trigged by these challenges, especially if we think they are threatening to us. In particular the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is quite brilliant at preparing us to fight or run away, which is very useful…..if you are facing a wild animal. On a day to day basis, it is in fact useful for the ANS to kick in and create some feelings in the body that alert us to danger — the caveat being, nothing is dangerous until it is interpreted as so, and hence we need a construct of ‘danger’ and of the thing that is perceived to be dangerous. For example, a baby may not have the construct of a lion and hence sees this big, cuddly, moving….thingy…like my teddy (may not have a construct for any of these either!), and essentially detects no threat. As the baby detects no threat, he or she behaves in a way that may not threaten the lion and hence the lion may feel safe. Both feeling safe, they become friends. Perhaps — these things have happened apparently. Please do not try this at home, but hopefully you get the idea. Back to day to day….

London Fibromyalgia ClinicsIn the modern world we often feel anxious. This is the body warning us that something is threatening. In many cases that I see, there is a strong reaction to banal events and non-threatening cues. Or if the cue is worthy of attention, the response is well out of proportion — e.g. utter panic and defensive thinking-behaviours. To what do we respond most frequently? Definitely not lions. Muggers? Gunmen? Earthquakes? Tidal waves? These are all inherently dangerous situations, that we simply do not often face. Sadly some people do have such encounters but the majority of us do not. The answer is our own thinking. The thoughts that are evoked — seemingly appearing form nowhere at times — are not the actual problem but instead the interpretation of the thought (metacognotion; our thinking about our thinking). The meaning that we give to a thought, often automatically, will determine the body response as our thoughts are embodied. And just to complicate things further in relation to thinking, there’s a world of difference between the experiencing-self and the memory-self. The former refers to what is happening right now, the latter to what we remember, or think we remember. In terms of pain, if our memory of a painful event concludes with a high level of pain, this will flavour the memory-self and we will report as such. The story, which is a snapshot within our lives, and how it turns out has a huge impact upon the subsequent memory of what happened.

The adult within an environment that becomes threatening, the workplace for example, can become very responsive to different cues that once were innocuous. Now they pose a potential danger and each time that happens and we respond with protective thinking and behaviours, the relationship becomes stronger — conditioning. There is no reason any this cannot be the same for younger people who are consistently within an environment and context that begins to pose a threat; a demanding school environment with high expectations plus the child’s own expectations and perfectionist traits. Place this context within a changing period of life and minimal time for rest and there is the risk of burn out or development of problems that involve many body systems. We cannot, no matter what age we are, continue to work at a level that is all about survival.

I focus on girls and women because females outnumber the males coming to the clinic. Many are perfectionist, many are hypermobile, many are anxious, many are in pain and many are suffering. This is a situation that needs addressing worldwide, and starts with understanding what is happening, why it is happens and how it happens. Over the past 10 years this understanding has evolved enormously, providing tangible ways forward. This does not mean that we need to change perfectionism, but rather recognise it and use it wisely; this does not mean that anxiety is abnormal, but rather recognise it as a normal emotion that motivates learning and action; this does not mean that feeling pain is a problem to fear, but rather know it can change when we take the right action; and it does not mean that we will not suffer, but rather accept that part of living involves suffering that we can overcome and move on.

We have created an incredible, fast moving world. The body does not work at such a pace. It needs time to refresh and renew so that we can think with clarity and perform to a high level, achieve and be successful. We are humans. We are a whole-person with no division between body and mind; instead one thinking, feeling, sensing, creating, moving and living entity responding to the experience of the now and to memory of what we think happened. Gaining control over this with understanding and awareness provides a route forward to wellbeing, no matter where the start point.

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If you are suffering with persisting pains — body pain, joint pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headache, migraine, pelvic pain, jaw pain + feeling anxious, unwell, tired — call now and start moving forward 07518 445493 | Clinics in Harley Street, Chelsea and New Malden