In my 31 years of practice as a physiotherapist it has been obvious that there could be a link between obesity and chronic pain. It could be any pain but clinically I have noticed that spinal pain or lower limb pain may contribute more than other areas.
Chronic pain can be classified as pain lasting more than 6 months. Acute pain that has not been resolved will turn into chronic pain. Continuing to exercise through pain without proper modifications or actually doing nothing but complete rest with an injury can mean your pain may turn into a chronic condition.
I am going to focus more on the inactive person in pain. It is essential that after an injury or episode of pain that there is a gradual return to normal movement. Often when we focus on the pain too much we experience a heightened level of pain. Add to that painkillers and our body is unable to resolve the pain naturally. Now I am not saying to not take painkillers if you require them but often people in pain will continue to take painkillers when they should be weaning off. Some painkillers can be addictive and stopping taking them can make us think that the pain returns worse than it was before because we have become so reliant on them.
So you injure your lower back and your GP says to go home and rest, lie down and do nothing. This may be helpful for the first 24 hours but you must get up and move. Resting after injury means Relative Rest and not complete Rest. Relative rest means that we continue to move as much as the pain allows. This movement actually helps with the healing process. As our pain lessens we then should be learning to activate muscles correctly that may have been inhibited by our pain. Retraining the muscles to work in the correct way and in co operation with other muscles is essential for normalising movement and actually helps to reduce pain.
So we can see that resting completely will not help us to get rid of our pain. If we think about the person who after injury stops moving and rests completely, they never learn how to reactivate the correct muscles and so they cannot possible move efficiently. They become tight and weak in muscles because of their inactivity and so this causes more Pain! It becomes a vicious cycle and starts to affect mental wellbeing also. People with pain as a result of inactivity can often become depressed.
Depressed people often turn to food as it gives them immediate comfort. When being inactive there is not much else to do but eat and sometimes even drinking alcohol can become a problem. Screen time often increases also. You may have heard the term that "Sitting is the new Smoking”. Well it is true. Sitting all day can lead to Obesity!
So if you experience Pain. Make sure that you see a Physiotherapist experienced in not just helping you to relieve your pain but getting your body working optimally again so that you can get back to enjoying your life.
Nobody wants to be Fat and in Pain. Lets make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Written by Angela Melit of the Pain Slayers at Graceville Physiotherapy