Most of us experience pain almost on a daily basis. It can vary in its intensity and location depending on the tissues injured, it is an important signal that you should pay attention to. Pain is the signal your body gives the brain to tell you that something is wrong. But how your brain interprets that signal is how you experience it. At, Flex Physical Therapy, we are experts in working with patients who are in all different kinds of pain. Here are 9 things you should know.
1. Pain is output from the brain. We used to believe that pain originated within the tissues of our body. But we now understand that it does not exist until the brain determines it does. The brain uses 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 pain. Pain is subjective and research has demonstrated that we all experience pain differently. 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) shows 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 issues 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. The old saying that laughter is the best medicine may hold true as it has been shown that keeping sense of humor can improve your mental state.
5. Your social environment may influence your perception of pain. Many patients state their pain increases when they are at work or in a stressful situation. The 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 pain 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 pain 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 pain, and have noticed your sense of direction is a bit off, it may be because of 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 pain in the same way. While some people claim to have a “high tolerance” for pain, there is not accurate way to measure or compare between individuals. While some tools exist to measure how much force you can resist before experiencing pain, it can’t be determined what your pain “feels like”.
At Flex Physical Therapy, we use the most revolutionary treatments to get to the root cause of your pain and eliminate it. If you or some you know is suffering from pain, injury or weakness schedule an appointment at our clinic nearest you. We would love to help get you feeling better.
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