Pain – A Simplified Version

By September 14, 2021Physiotherapy

In June I wrote a Blog post about pain. In this blog I attempted to describe what pain is and why is it is different for all. Unsurprisingly the blog post was a little technical so in this updated blog post I wanted to simplify the topic a little more.

What is pain?

Well I wrote the technical term in my previous post and I will add this below. The nuts and bolts of it are that pain is an experience. More often than not pain is an uncomfortable experience. This experience is as much linked to what damage is done and what is happening in our brains at the time.

Think of pain as being the result of a lot of factors. To explain a little deeper, we need to appreciate the definition of pain:

“an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual and potential tissue damage”

The unpleasant sensory experience is where the physical damage is. Stubbed toe, kicked the end of the coffee table, bent on your knee funny etc.

The emotional experience is important because this gives the physical injury context. The areas of the brain which have deep interconnections include memory centers, emotional centers and other higher processing brain centers. The brain centers role help us give meaning to an injury. You may be an Olympic athlete a day away from running your final and somehow manage to kick the edge of the coffee table. In this context I imagine you extremely frustrated, worried, sad, anxious, shocked among other things. These emotions combine to give you a unique pain experience. Your emotional take on kicking the edge of the coffee table might be different because of your upcoming race. You need your foot in full working order to give your best performance. You have invested a lot of effort into getting to the Olympics and it is unfathomable that it could all be undone in an instant by a spontaneous injury.

Now lets think of this scenario a week after the final. Lets say you performed really well and are ecstatic with your result. Kicking the edge of the coffee table may be experienced quite differently, and therefore your experience of pain will likely be different.

The most common example I see every day is the experience of back pain while sitting through a very important meeting. I often hear patients say it was OK while I was in the meeting but afterwards it was really sore. You may be able to suppress your pain while the adrenaline is flowing (for example having to focus on the chairman of the board questioning you).

We all experience the world in different ways. The way we experience pain is different also. Understanding pain is important as it helps shape our experience of injury, recovery and daily function. If you are in pain and need help come in and speak to one of our experienced Bend + Mend Physio’s at one of four convenient Sydney CBD locations, or via Telehealth Physiotherapy.

Campbell Hooker

About Campbell Hooker

Campbell Graduated from AUT University and has worked in private practice in both Australia and in London. Campbell has a keen interest in sporting injuries, office based injuries and the neck. He has worked at grassroots and elite levels of rugby union and league, and with surf lifesaving. He has recently taken to triathlon where he spends most of his spare time. Campbell has an interest in neurological conditions and has a Neuroanatomy degree out of Otago University. He utilises a number of methods when both analysing and treating patients, including dry needling and the Sarah Key Method.

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