What Pain Is, Why it Happens, and How You Can Relieve It

Hello! I get a lot of questions from patients who are confused about what, exactly, is causing their pain, whether the discomfort is in their low back, hips, shoulder, etc. Combining the looks of Bill Nye, and the sass of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I’m going to give you a tiny anatomy lesson and explain what pain is, why it happens and how you can relieve it.

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Acute Pain

Acute pain is a sensation experienced when a tissue in the body (muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, bones, nose cartilage, etc.) is damaged. If you were outside today, you likely felt the force of the wind causing microtears to the skin on your face. Most of the tissues in your body have nerve cells, some of which are specifically designed to transmit messages of pain to your brain to initiate an inflammatory response, which is directly responsible for the healing process of any tissue in your body. This is why, most of the time, an MD will prescribe an NSAID to control the symptoms of pain while your injury is healing.

This is NOT the same as chronic pain.

Chronic pain is more complex. Imagine a highway between a sore spot in your low back and your brain. However you injured the area, the pathway from the pain receptors in that sore spot and the brain was mapped. If that injury was rehabbed correctly, given time to heal and plenty of movement to sustain the necessary blood flow to heal the tissue, that pathway eventually would be forgotten. If, however, the issue was ignored and the habits that led to the injury were repeated, that pathway would grow and eventually become a superhighway. Even if the injury did heal, the pain pathway is now so powerful to the brain that you would still experience pain.

Your healthcare provider should be giving you physical, mental and emotional exercises to treat all of the aspects of your pain. This is the most efficient and effective method of pain relief.

Teaching new movement patterns involves showing the brain that the “injured” area can actually move through a full range of motion, and then loading the area in the full range of motion.

Teaching new thought and emotional patterns is more difficult. Being in pain for so long can literally change your behavioral and cognitive patterns, which is why starting a daily meditation ritual is so effective in managing pain.

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Let’s get in touch

The providers at Performance Care Clinics do so much more than hand out a script for NSAIDs and tell you to come back in six weeks, or adjust you 3x/week for 6 months, or give you a list of core exercises. We treat all of the sources of pain with innovative exercises and provide longer, one-on-one sessions so that all of your concerns are addressed.

If you have any questions or would like to follow up on anything in this article, I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at dr.sarah@performancecareclinics.com.