What is Pain?
Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience, unique to every individual, associated with actual or potential tissue damage.
Pain is like an alarm system naturally built within the body to keep you out of danger. At the centre of this alarm system is your brain, which sounds the alarm when it makes the decision based on all available information that something is wrong or potentially dangerous.
If the system is healthy, it warns you when something is wrong, just as your home alarm sounds when a burglar breaks a window. However, just as a home alarm can be triggered in the absence of a burglary, your body’s alarm system can send signals of pain in the absence of any real danger or threat.
In these cases, there’s no real danger, but the alarm sounds in an effort to protect you. For safety reasons, it’s better to have a sensitive alarm that triggers false alarms than have an alarm that isn’t sensitive enough.
What factors influence your body’s alarm system?
Pain, while unpleasant, is an essential part of life. If you sprain your knee, pain can prevent you from going for a jog. It can teach you that placing your hand on a hot stove is a bad idea. Pain can lead you to seek treatment if you have an infection or broken bone. Pain can also prevent you from getting out of bed if you dread your job or if you’ve recently lost a loved one. Pain can trigger you to change your lifestyle if you’ve recently had a heart attack. There’s a constant interplay between all aspects of the human body; pain impacts each person in a unique manner that’s one hundred percent dependent upon context. and individual factors.
Fear, stress, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, overactivity, poor nutrition, sickness, endorphins and adrenaline among other factors can influence your alarm system’s perception of danger, increase sensitivity and lead to a greater protective experience of pain. When pain is present, it can shape your mood, personality, behaviours, beliefs, choices and aspirations.
Over the past several decades, pain scientists and researchers have made great progress in understanding and explaining pain. Unfortunately, even when the biology of pain appears to be simple, the answer is never straightforward.
What can we do about it?
The human body gets stronger and more resilient to manage persistent ongoing pain through a process of gradual, progressive exposure to those individual factors that cause pain and strengthening. For example, to get stronger, you slowly and steadily lift heavier weights over time. If you lift too much too soon, you’ll become sore, or worse, injured. However, if you don’t lift enough weight to challenge your body, you’ll never get any stronger.
At Praxis Rehab Physiotherapy, we help you to draw the exact equation of not too much, not too little, but just the right amount which is unique to everyone and will change over time as your body adapts.
If you would like to know more, we recommend you to download the Pain Toolkit Australia (www.paintoolkit.org)
Pain Toolkit Australia for Persistent Pain