Often people present to physio because of pain they are experiencing in a certain area. In fact, pain is the number one reason people present to any medical professional. Pain can impact significantly on all aspects of your life. It can affect your ability to move, to work, to participate in sporting activities, hobbies and social events. It can lead to poor sleep, anxiety, depression and other mood disturbances which can impact on your relationships and general wellbeing.
In order to get rid of pain it’s first important to understand why you are feeling pain in the first place. Pain, as described by the International Association for the Study of Pain, is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage. So, pain is a protective experience that exists within our consciousness, it is not a marker of damage or some other measure of the state of the tissues.
Yes, we do usually experience pain when our tissues are damaged, and this is entirely appropriate as your brain weighs up the information coming in and decides that your body needs protecting. In cases of tissue damage, for example a broken bone or a recent ligament sprain, the area may be tender to touch and move and this makes you put less stress on the area and allows for the healing process to take place. Pain gradually reduces as the integrity of the damaged tissues returns with the repair process and you no longer need to protect the area.
But often pain continues long after the healing process is complete. So, there is no real need for protection as the tissue integrity has been restored but the brain continues to perceive that protection is required and pain is felt in the area. This is a case where the brain has continued to perceive that there is more credible evidence of danger than there is credible evidence of safety. There are several things that can influence this weighing up by the brain. There may be continued or amplified nerve impulses within in the brain or travelling up to the brain due to a sensitised nervous system. This is a bit like an overactive car alarm system that goes off when someone just walks by the car or a bird flies over the car, instead of going off when it’s really needed, for example when someone breaks into the car. In addition to a sensitised system, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep and unhelpful thoughts and beliefs will contribute to the persistence of pain.
Addressing these issues can be tricky and if you find yourself in this situation, you need to work with a therapist trained in dealing with persistent pain states. Here at Beachside Physiotherapy your needs will be met as our physios are experienced with dealing with these presentations and we have a special interest in chronic and persistent pain.
As always if you have any questions about this topic or any others please reach out.