In case you were not aware, September is Pain Awareness Month. In the past we have done several blogs related to pain including referred pain, the “no pain, no gain” philosophy, sciatic nerve pain, and fibromyalgia. If you are interested in any of these topics related to pain, click on the hyperlinks provided or refer to the blog list on our website. Pain is one of the body’s many ways of communicating with us. Typically, pain is an indicator that something is amiss within the body. This is why understanding pain is so important.
Pain is a warning sign that the nervous system of the body produces in order to help protect our bodies from harm. Individuals who experience pain from conditions like fibromyalgia or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) may have heard from someone along the way that their pain is all in their head. While this is not the best way of approaching either of these conditions, there is some truth within this statement; however, it would be more accurate to say that ALL people’s pain is in their head. Pain is the brain’s response to an irritating stimulus, but the triggers for some people may not be the same as the triggers for others. One person may feel minimal to no pain when being pricked by a needle while another individual may feel that the pain produced by the same stimulus is the worst pain imaginable. The same event has occurred for the two individuals, but each person’s brain processes the event differently.
Acute pain is the type of pain that occurs immediately after a negative stimulus. It causes the body to produce a pain signal warning the person that something is wrong. Depending on the problem that caused the acute pain, once the cause is known and treated, then the pain will go away.In the case of chronic pain, pain is produced for an extended period of time (weeks, months, or years) following the negative stimulus. Sometimes there is a continued cause for pain to occur over an extended period of time like arthritis or cancer; but often there is no longer a stimulus that is causing the pain to remain present. Why chronic pain persists in some individuals and not in others is not fully understood; but, once again, the brain’s processing of pain is what allows the body to feel the continued sensation. There is no true cure for chronic pain, but there are ways to manage it including physical therapy, medication, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, surgery, psychotherapy, relaxation and meditation therapy, biofeedback, and behavior modification. It is important to note that avoiding activity and exercise does not help to overcome chronic pain. In fact, use of a regular fitness routine can assist in managing the condition. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and CRPS are all examples of chronic pain conditions that respond negatively to a lack of activity. A physical therapist can help you determine the proper balance of rest and activity depending on your pain condition.