Pain; It Hurts When I Poke It...

We've all heard this joke right: Patient: "Doctor everything hurts when I touch it"  Doctor: "Your finger is broken, stop poking things".  Although sometimes it is that simple, pain is a complex animal, and has MANY contributing factors, one of which is tissue damage...ONE!

If you get a charley horse it hurts, but will fade in a few days time; this is not the type of pain I'm talking about.  I'm talking about pain you experience months or years after the initial injury. 

This type of pain is affected by stress (social or work), depression/anxiety, your beliefs about pain, sleep habits, diet/nutrition, lack of exercise, previous experience with pain, and yes, tissue damage.

One of the best authorities on the subject is Lorimer Moseley and he and his colleagues performed a study on healthy individuals not experiencing pain.  They used a -20°C rod placed on the patients skin together with either a red light or blue light.  They were told that the red light would be hot and blue light cold, when in fact, they were both cold.  The red light group reported significantly higher levels of pain and discomfort than the blue light group...because they BELIEVED it was going to hurt more, it did.  This is one reason why I am very careful 'diagnosing' people, or labeling what they 'have' without giving a clear explanation and teaching them a little bit about pain science.

What can I do if I have pain?  I will not try to pretend it is easy to solve, and usually the longer you have had the pain, the more factors need to be addressed.  First thing to do though, is understand that inherently your body is strong, adaptable and capable of great things.  Believing that you can get better AND taking steps to help yourself is a great way to start.  Often the hardest thing to do though is to get moving, especially if we have associated movement with the pain, but this is paramount.  Our bodies are meant to move; moving our joints helps with joint lubrication and swelling management, using our muscles helps improve circulation, as well as modulate pain signals.  Now I'm not saying run a marathon and 'push through the pain', but find some pain-free movement that involves the affected area.  Even if this movement is small and not very meaningful, it starts a feedback cycle involving your most powerful weapon; your brain! The more we are able to do that doesn’t cause pain, our dysfunctional pain system gets re-wired to NOT expect pain.

If you have pain that is persisting, it is best to make an appointment with your physiotherapist, as they are an expert in movement and can help you take the first steps to reclaiming your life.