We’ve all experience pain. Whether a stubbed toe or a recent break up, pain is integrated into our daily lives. Although pain is not going anywhere, the latest research shows the more you know about pain and how it works, the better off you will be. A book called Why Do I Hurt? by physical therapy, Adriaan Louw, talks about the benefits of understanding pain. Some benefits include moving and functioning better, experiencing less pain and having an increased ability and interest in doing more healthy exercise. This knowledge is essential for your recovery. (Why do I hurt, 2013, Adriaan Louw).
What is pain?
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as, “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.” Pain is an experience and feeling that is normal and necessary for survival, but living in constant pain is not. As research on pain progresses, the focus is being shifted from the painful spot itself to the nervous system and brain.
Muscles, tendons and ligaments, generally heal in 3-6 months. However, we all have heard of people being in pain for much longer than that. Why, you may ask? It is important to understand that the pain we feel is really due to the sensitivity of the nervous system and how the brain processes information from the body and the environment.
No Two Pains are the Same
You may have noticed how differently people respond to pain. Someone might get injured then just brush it off or they could start wailing in pain. The IASP explains how pain is perceived differently by different people. They say “pain is always a personal experience that is influenced to varying degrees by biological, psychological, and social factors”. How people experience pain is purely on individual basis and very subjective. Pain emerges at the intersection of bodies, minds and cultures. These factors all affect how pain is perceived, experienced and reacted to physically, mentally and emotionally.
But what makes us feel pain? Let’s get into a little of science.
Science of Pain
Our bodies have roughly 45 miles of nerves running through, comprised of more than 400 individual nerves. The nerves connect to the spinal cord, which then connects to the brain. All of those nerves are “calmly” functioning and monitoring our body functions. They send out a jolt or two every once in a while, letting us know we’re alive. When there is an injury is, the nerves in that area of the body “wake up” and send impulses to the spinal cord, alerting our brains that there is “danger”. The brain processes that information and perceives it as painful, too hot, too cold, sharp, etc. The brain sends the signals back out into our body, causing it to react and move away or grab the body part where the stimuli came from. Sometimes, that alert of danger lasts a few seconds, sometimes few months, and how we perceive that nerve alarm system is again, due to the factors stated above. However, either way it may cause us to seek help which means, it has done its job. The bottom line is, pain is individualized and pain is normal. Living in pain though, is not and the solution starts with you.
If you would like to learn more about pain, we recommend Why do I hurt? by Adriaan Louw. If you are experiencing acute, chronic pain or an injury and you’d like to learn more about how physical therapy can help, give us a call today! New Jersey has direct access which means you can come see us without seeing your doctor! We can see you quicker than you could get in to see the doctor, while also saving you both time and money!
Please, call us to schedule your evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester
(908.879.5700) with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!
Why do I hurt? A patient book about the neuroscience of pain. Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD, 2013
Fillingim R. B. (2017). Individual differences in pain: understanding the mosaic that makes pain personal. Pain, 158 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S11–S18. https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000775
International Association for the Study of Pain. IASP Terminology. Available from: https://www.iasp-pain.org/Education/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=1698.
Helman, C. (1990) Culture. Health and Illness (2nd Edition). London: Wright