Explain pain. Why does my body hurt?
Pain is often divided into acute and chronic. Acute pain normally lasts less than 3 months and is our bodies’ normal response to tissue injury. Most tissues are healed after 3-6 months and pain that persists longer than that is referred to as chronic pain. It is generally more complex and there can be multiple influences to the chronic pain experience.
It is the brain that processes the painful stimulus and determines the quality and intensity of pain. The amount of pain you feel depends on how much danger your brain thinks you are in, not how much you are really in. The International Association for the Study of Pain’s widely used definition states: “Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage. You may have no problems with your joints, muscles, ligaments etc. but can still have pain because your brain thinks that you are in danger. Conversely on a rugby pitch you sustain a fracture or ligament injury, but get through the match with no pain because “the drug cabinet in the brain” produces adrenalin which suppresses the brain experience during the match. This is often referred to as battlefield analgesia.
In chronic pain, factors such as lifestyle, posture, our thoughts and beliefs, how sensitive our nervous system is at a given time and genetics can all have an influence.
The factors below can lower the threshold at which we feel pain.
Sensitised Nervous System ?More pain
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Negative thoughts
- Previous negative pain experience
- Fear of pain and movement
Conversely there are other factors that can raise the threshold at which we feel pain.
A less sensitive Nervous System or Nervous System in a Control State ?Less pain
- Good diet
- Physical Activity
- Understanding Pain
- Being in Control of your Pain
- Belief that pain ? harm
- Belief that activity is helpful
Recent research has shown that having a better understanding of pain can help you to deal with it more effectively.
So- If I am in pain what can I do about it?
1) Take control. Be informed. Ask your Chartered physiotherapist/doctor/clinician
a) What is wrong?
b) How long will it take to get better?
c) What can I the patient do about it ?
d) What can you the clinician do?
2) Be aware of “thought viruses”. Your thoughts and beliefs can generate nerve impulses in the brain in the same way that an injured ligament will create a nerve impulse. It is the linkage of these impulses that create the pain experience. e.g. ” I am so frightened of my pain and injuring my back that I am not doing anything.”
3) The different routes that we can take when we are in pain.
There are many different routes that people take when they have persistent pain but
The road to Well being involves
a) Understanding and confronting the problem
b) Reducing the fear and anxiety that revolves around pain
c) Pacing and Graded return to activity.
Pacing involves identifying how much activity e.g. walking that a person can do without causing a flare up. Advice is given then on how to increase the activity in a steady manner over a period of time.
As you can see from above, there is nothing simple about the pain experience and it can take special training to understand pain more deeply.
Chartered Physiotherapists deal with pain everyday and here at Southside Physiotherapy clinic we are specialised in helping people deal with many different types of pain. In the more chronic pain cases we take a more holistic approach and look at the patient’s lifestyle, exercise habits, examine their thoughts and beliefs and try to reduce fear of movement. Addressing these factors by taking the time to listen to the patient, explain the problem, offer advice and implement a graded exercise programme can make the pain easier to manage.
Finally for a better understanding of Acute and Chronic pain, check out the You Tube video Explain pain in 5 minutes”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b8oB757DKc Click Here
Germaine Mallin Chartered Physiotherapist at Southside Physiotherapy Clinic