WHAT IS PAIN??
Pain is your body’s alarm system, it lets you know when there is a potential threat. Pain comes from the brain and is based on perception of threat. This can be a good thing in many instances, because it lets you know of this potential threat such as an injury that needs care.
The cool thing about an injury, is that our body is so incredibly good at healing! Tissues HEAL...it may take some days, some weeks, or some months to heal, but they recover. During this process, it is normal to have some pain as the body heals.
The problem arises when the pain continues to persist, i.e. it overstays its welcome, and then normal, harmless daily activities can be experienced as painful.
WHY DOES THE PAIN PERSIST??
So what happens when your brain perceives a threat? Certain cells in the brain turn on and this leads to a physical response (i.e. makes your nerves extra sensitive). Your “alarm system” becomes extra sensitive and the pain volume knob gets turned up.
For example, let’s say you injured your back bending over to pick up a box, you might have some anxiety about going to pick up a box again (or for a gym-related example let’s say during a deadlift). Now, even if no physical harm occurs when picking up a box or doing a deadlift, those same cells turn on in your brain causing you to sense pain.
SO WHY DO THE NERVES STAY SO SENSITIVE??
There can be many reasons that the nerves or alarm system stay so sensitive causing this chronic pain that you may be experiencing. I will list a few possible reasons:
Stress--family, job, etc.
HOW DO I IMPROVE/TURN DOWN MY PAIN??
LEARN ABOUT PAIN
If you’re reading this blog post, you’re already taking the first step! Studies have shown that explaining the pain experience and how the brain/nervous system processes pain allows patients to move better, exercise better, and think differently about pain.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Remain active even though the natural response is often to rest and avoid movement
10-20 min, 100 bpm, 4-5 times/week
You must teach your brain to understand and believe that you can perform certain movements without causing harm (i.e. turn that pain volume knob down!)
Adequate amount and quality of sleep plays a crucial role in recovery as well as regulating certain hormones (*This could be a whole other blog post about the importance of sleep!)
SET POSITIVE GOALS
Studies show that people who have positive expectations of recovery have better outcomes
**Credit for the information in this post goes out to Michael Curtis, PT and Adriaan Louw, PT (Check out the references below). They both have some great resources out there regarding chronic pain and pain science that I would encourage you to check out! If you are having pain, make sure to see a physical therapist who can help you better understand your pain and injury & guide you through the recovery process!
Remember, the more you learn and understand your pain, the better you will be able to move and feel!!
1. Curtis, Michael. Turn down your pain: A practical guide to understanding pain and improving your function. 2018.
2. Louw, Adriaan (2018). Teaching people about pain [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://www.medbridgeeducation.com/about/instructor/adriaan-louw-pt-phd-csmt.