An often overlooked yet crucial factor in the treatment of chronic pain is rehabilitation. Whilst treatment of the initial pain episode is of huge importance, rehabilitation is essential if recurrences of pain are to be avoided.
Rehabilitation is essential for those who do not wish to suffer from chronic episodes of recurring back pain. If the causal problem is not addressed after the first episode, the chances of another bad episode within four years are significantly increased.
After the cause of each episode of pain is pinpointed and treated, an exercise programme should be drawn up and supervised to prevent recurrences of the problem. This may include personalised stretching exercises for flexibility or strength exercises to tone and condition muscles. It is important that exercise regimes are introduced gradually and monitored carefully.
A proper rehabilitative programme should combine the following four important elements:
- Flexibility stretching
- Aerobic exercise for endurance
- Resistance exercises
- Strength, balance and co-ordination exercises.
Stretching muscles should be done slowly and gently. After around ten seconds, a stretch starts to have maximum benefit, so it should be held for at least 20-30 seconds. It is important not to bounce as you stretch, which may cause damage and does not improve flexibility.
Aerobic exercise releases stress-reducing hormones and burns fat, and also increases your sense of well-being. It therefore works in two ways – not only strengthening muscles to make pain episodes less likely, but also reducing tension that can cause initial injury.