Perceptions of Pain

We have a problem. A problem with pain. Well it isn’t the pain per se, but our perception of pain that is the problem.

We tend to try and:
1. Avoid pain
2. Push through pain
3. Seek quick fixes for pain
4. Blame our body for pain
5. Think we are broken when we have pain

Here are some things to know about nociceptive pain:

Your pain is real!

There are two types of pain: Acute and Chronic (lasts more than 3 months).

Tissue damage/Structural Changes and Pain don’t always correlate – I might have a herniated disc in my back, but no pain. You might have a back that looks perfect on an x-ray, yet you have pain.

The farther away (as measured in time) we get from the initial experience of pain, the weaker the link to any kind of injury.

Pain also isn’t well linked to alignment, posture or weight, despite what many doctors have told my clients .

Pain is an output from the brain – old thinking was pain was generated in the damaged tissue and the brain responded – this would make pain an input to the brain meaning it exists out there in he body and then we feel it. We have nociceptors, which are sensory neurons located around the body that send electrical signals of possible threats to our brains.

Pain is created by the brain to tell us to pay attention and take some form of protective action.

The brain makes the decision about whether we will experience pain in a split second. To make the decision it takes into account the following factors:

  1. Your stress level
  2. The circumstances surrounding you/the event
  3. What you believe about your body
  4. What else is going on in your body
  5. The things you typically say about your body
  6. The people in your life
  7. The places you typically go in your life

When pain persists it is because we have built a roadmap in the brain – we have wired ourselves to feel pain. The good news is our brains are easily re-built (neuroplasticity) so we can rewire your brain so you don’t feel pain.

We have two Physical Therapists, Lorimer Moseley and David Butler to thank for this framework of understanding pain. (their book The Explain Pain Handbook is a great one!).

We accomplish that rewiring by slowing down, moving mindfully, paying attention to the breath, changing the beliefs we hold about our body, the things we say about our body, the people we interact with about our body.

You don’t need to avoid pain.
You don’t need to push through pain.
If the quick fix stretch doesn’t get you out of pain and/or your pain is persistent, you just haven’t yet discovered the right inputs.
You aren’t broken if you experience pain.

Pain is just an invitation to slow down and pay attention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.