9 Things You Should Know About Pain
The causes of your discomfort are not always straight forward. For example, it may be influenced or increased by your environment and even your mental health. Here are nine things to know about pain that may help you to better understand your condition and your recovery.
1. Pain is output from the brain.
While we used to believe that sensitivity originated within the tissues of our body, we now understand that it does not exist until the brain determines it does. The brain uses a virtual “road map” to direct an output of pain to tissues that it suspects may be in danger. This process acts as a means of communication between the brain and the tissues of the body, to serve as a defense against possible injury or disease.
2. The degree of injury does not always equal the degree of discomfort.
Research has demonstrated that we all experience pain in individual ways. While some of us experience major injuries with little pain, others experience minor injuries with a lot of pain (think of a paper cut).
3. Despite what diagnostic imaging (MRIs, x-rays, CT scans) show us, the finding may not be the cause of your pain.
A study performed on individuals 60 years or older who had no symptoms of low back pain found that 36% had a herniated disc, 21% had spinal stenosis, and more than 90% had a degenerated or bulging disc, upon diagnostic imaging.
4. Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, can make your pain worse.
Pain can be influenced by many different factors, such as psychological conditions. A recent study in the Journal of Pain showed that psychological variables that existed prior to a total knee replacement were related to a patient’s experience of long-term pain following the operation.
5. Your social environment may influence your perception of pain.
Many patients state their soreness increases when they are at work or in a stressful situation. Pain messages can be generated when an individual is in an environment or situation that the brain interprets as unsafe. It is a fundamental form of self-protection.
6. Understanding pain through education may reduce your need for care.
A large study conducted with military personnel demonstrated that those who were given a 45-minute educational session about pain sought care for low back pain less than their counterparts.
7. Our brains can be tricked into developing sensation in prosthetic limbs.
Studies have shown that our brains can be tricked into developing a “referred” sensation in a limb that has been amputated, causing a feeling of sensitivity that seems to come from the prosthetic limb – or from the “phantom” limb. The sensation is generated by the association of the brain’s perception of what the body is from birth (whole and complete) and what it currently is (post-amputation).
8. The ability to determine left from right may be altered when you experience pain.
Networks within the brain that assist you in determining left from right can be affected when you experience severe pain. If you have been experiencing discomfort and have noticed your sense of direction is a bit off, it may be because a “roadmap” within the brain that details a path to each part of the body may be a bit “smudged.” (This is a term we use to describe a part of the brain’s virtual roadmap that isn’t clear. Imagine spilling ink onto part of a roadmap and then trying to use that map to get to your destination.)
9. There is no way of knowing whether you have a high tolerance for pain or not. Science has yet to determine whether we all experience it in the same way.
While some people claim to have a “high tolerance” for pain, there is no accurate way to measure or compare this tolerance among individuals. While some tools exist to measure how much force you can resist before experiencing discomfort, it can’t be determined what your particular sensitivity “feels like.”
At Kleinpeter Physical Therapy, we can get the help you get back to a better life. Our Physical Therapists can design a custom regimen to help reduce your discomfort. Contact us today for a consultation to help you start the road to recovery!