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Persistent Pain

Middle aged man has shoulder pain. with copy space for text.jpg

Persistent Pain

What is persistent pain and how common is it? 

Persistent pain, otherwise known as Chronic pain is pain that persists longer than normal healing time after injury or illness, typically for more than 3-6 months. In many cases there may be no apparent physical cause for persistent pain. According to the AIHW persistent pain affects 1 in 5 Australians aged 45 and over. In 2017-2018 there were nearly 105,000 hospitalisations involving chronic pain. 

Who gets persistent pain? 

People with persistent pain are more likely to be female and older. Those with persistent pain tend to spend longer in hospital and report significant limitations with day to day activities. There are a number of modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors, which can contribute to persistent pain. These include: 


  • Smoking 

  • Weight

  • Alcohol 

  • Physical inactivity 

  • Nutrition 

  • Sunshine/Vit D

  • Ethnicity and cultural background 

  • Socio-economic background

  • Thoughts, feelings and beliefs 

  • Employment status and occupational factors 

  • Age

  • History of abuse, violent injury

  • Genetics

  • Sleep disorders 

  • Comorbidities 

  • Mental health 


I heard that it’s ‘all in my head’. What's this all about? 

No matter what anyone tells you, your pain is REAL and no one else will ever experience pain the same as you. Pain is a real, individual, unique and complicated human experience, which is modulated and influenced by a myriad of tissue-based,  immune (e.g. inflammatory), central nervous system and other processes. Our experiences and how we think and feel can also influence our pain. Recent research has also found a clear relationship between gut health and pain. Our bodies are complex and so is pain. 


Common symptoms? 

Symptoms will vary from person to person, but generally speaking, those with persistent pain will describe pain that impacts their quality of life on a daily basis. There are a number of conditions that are also associated with persistent pain such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), hypermobility disorders and more. 


How can Physio help? 

Your Physiotherapist will not only assess your range of movement, strength and overall function, but look at other possible contributing/risk factors and identify your current understanding of your pain. Your Physiotherapist can then help you address the modifiable risk factors. Education is a key component of treatment for the management of persistent pain. Learning more about your pain and what it means for you can provide you with a sense of autonomy, help to reduce fear of movement and improve your confidence to move and overall function. Working with a Physiotherapist can help you to establish a baseline for activity and movement in order to minimise flare ups. Your Physiotherapist will also provide you with strategies to help you pace your activity as well as coping strategies for managing flare ups if/when they do occur. 


Your Physiotherapist might also use other educational tools to help you learn more about your pain experience. Educational tools aim to promote neuroplasticity, which can have a positive impact on your pain. Your Physiotherapist will work with you to establish the tools that suit your current understanding, learning styles and needs. You may also require input from another Allied Health Professional, such as a Psychologist or dietician. Persistent pain management requires a holistic and interdisciplinary approach - it will be challenging and feel really overwhelming at times, but your Allied Health team will be there to support you along your journey.

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