What is Pain Trying to Tell You?

What is Pain?

Pain is without a doubt confusing and flat out weird. One day there is nothing, and then the next you have pain. Often, from the outside it looks as though nothing has changed. This article aims to help explain pain and gain a better understanding about the purpose of pain in the body. Education and knowledge are the first steps in problem-solving the source of your pain and eliminating it. 

What is Pain Trying to Tell You?

Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience related to potential or actual tissue damage. Doesn’t that just clear it all up for you? Not really. Greg Lehman helps to define pain in a simpler way:

  • Pain is an alarm.
  • Alarms are meant to initiate an action or response. 
  • Alarms are not able to tell you how urgent an action or response is needed.
  • Pain is kind of like a smoke detector then. The house could be on fire or someone could have burnt the toast again. 

 

Pain is NOT normal.

There are two types of patterns I see clinically in patients with pain. These are generalizations.

Pain Avoidance Pattern Grind it out
Gradually decrease movement. Push through painful movement.
Pain threshold decreases as a result. Stop only when pain is severe. 
Need to not fear movement as much. Need to stop pushing through pain.

Pain is not normal and requires a response or action from you. It is hard to know when you need to stop pushing it or if you need to engage in specific movement. Insert subtle plug on how I can help you with this task.

 

Sensitization

This means we can essentially become better at producing pain. Not exactly something we are all striving to achieve. Sensitization is affected by factors like stress, fear, anxiety, anger, attitude, catastrophizing, depression, social isolation, lack of support, false beliefs.

Pain is poorly related to damage, it is more about sensitivity.

People have a tendency either consciously or subconsciously to amplify protective instincts, which is keeping the alarm on past when it is necessary. 

 

How do we work with pain in physical therapy?

In physical therapy we evaluate patients and gain understanding on what their body is trying to communicate to them. In a way we are translators. We also aim to empower patients through manual treatment, exercise, and education. 

If there is true tissue damage it is important to help accelerate the healing process and increase confidence in the body. In cases when there is not true tissue damage that does not mean the pain isn’t real, the pain is real. It is then up to you and I to demonstrate to the body how it should be moving. This process involves effectively rewiring the internal map of the body in the brain. 

We do this so that you can be the person you want to be without having to deal with pain. You get to be you again. 

At Cuirim we celebrate the acknowledgement of pain as it is the first step in recovery that many do not take. No one should have to live with pain, it is not normal and can be treated.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Steve Behm 

Steve is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who believes in taking the time to understand each patient’s lifestyle and how that can impact their physical health. Steve is focused on getting patients back to their normal lives and doing the things they love.

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