Chronic pain sufferers may be familiar with the chronic pain cycle. It’s a frustrating multi-stage model in which pain and anxiety feed off each other and secondary symptoms develop, to create a seemingly never ending cycle of discomfort.

The chronic pain cycle

The five stages of chronic pain are generally defined as:

  1. Fear of injury
  2. Decrease in activity
  3. Muscle/flexibility loss
  4. Increase in pain
  5. Unwanted or intrusive thoughts

With that in mind, let’s see how the chronic pain cycle sometimes plays out.

Chronic pain in action

Pain generally serves a purpose; it occurs following an injury, and activates to protect you. As an example, if you’ve twisted an ankle you may feel pain when walking or moving your foot in a certain way. This is your body’s way of telling you that this motion should be avoided, or that supportive measures are needed.

Chronic pain is different from regular pain in that it extends longer than a typical healing time, and may activate at unexpected times or for seemingly, no reason. Your body’s systems remain on alert even when there is no immediate threat.

Chronic pain is typically defined as being present for 3 months or more, and may be constant or intermittent, or flare up following certain activities.

Chronic pain is difficult enough on its own, but it may cause secondary complaints including lack of mobility, sleep interruptions, and an increase in stress. The body and mind feed off each other, developing a vicious cycle of pain, nervous system dysregulation, and mental anguish in a repeating pattern.

As we saw above in the 5 stages of chronic pain, fear of pain can understandably lead to a decrease in motion or activity, which then leads to a loss of function as the muscle or joint weakens. This leads to an increase in pain, which can cause feelings of anxiety or depression. Those negative feelings may lead to more fear, and the cycle begins again.

Chronic pain is complex, and can affect many aspects of a person’s life. Many people feel stuck in this cycle, as the different factors continue to interact and build.

Physical therapy and chronic pain of the pelvis

When we think of chronic pain, we often think of joint pain or discomfort following an injury. These are common causes of chronic pain, but there are other less talked about causes as well.

Chronic pelvic pain is common, and can be defined as ongoing pain occurring below the belly button and between the hips. It can affect one’s ability to work, exercise, enjoy leisure activities, or engage in sexual relations.

There are many causes of chronic pain in the pelvic region including endometriosis, and several conditions affecting the bladder, intestines, and even lower spine. Pelvic floor dysfunction (a condition of the muscles and other connective tissue of the pelvis) can also be to blame.

Chronic pelvic pain can easily cause a slip into a chronic pain cycle, where feelings of a private of embarrassing condition lead to increased mental anguish. Stress affects the pelvic floor, and holding tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw is often a sign of holding stress in the pelvic floor as well. And so, before you know it, pain has informed anxiety, and anxiety has informed more pain.

Regardless of the injury that began it, the key to a better quality of life is breaking the cycle.

Breaking the chronic pain cycle

There are several ways to interrupt the chronic pain cycle. These may include stress-reduction, using at-home treatment methods like pain reducers or heat/cold therapy, a change in lifestyle, and physical therapy.

Chronic pain can be isolating, but you don’t need to address it alone. An experienced physical therapist can assist in breaking the cycle and moving you out of pain and into a better physical and mental space.

Using targeted movements, exercises, and stretches can improve mobility and flexibility, as well as strengthen muscles and connective tissue. By stretching tight areas and strengthening weak areas, the body comes into balance and function can be restored.

Body Restoration Physical Therapy treats chronic pelvic pain

Conveniently located in Roslyn Heights, New York, Body Restoration Physical Therapy offers hands-on, personalized physical therapy treatments for chronic pelvic pain.

Many complaints, including sexual dysfunction, incontinence or pelvic pain, and weakness of the trunk, back, and hips can be addressed by a trained pelvic floor physical therapist.

Don’t stay stuck in the chronic pain cycle. You deserve a better quality of life, and it is achievable. Contact Body Restoration Physical Therapy today and take the first step towards breaking the cycle.