It’s easy to think that if your elbow hurts, something must be wrong with your elbow. Maybe you tore a muscle, or a ligament, or maybe even chipped off the bone. You go the doctor and tell them about your elbow pain and they give you an X-ray or an MRI or both, and something strange happens: the doctor says there is no structural damage. How can this be? It definitely hurts, so something must be wrong. And not to mention, now what do you do?
This is super common and happens to an unfortunate amount of people, but luckily there is a fairly simple explanation. Pain doesn’t always mean structural damage. Sometimes things just hurt for a while and then it goes away on it’s own. Imagine a headache. You don’t need brain surgery, as there is nothing broken or wrong with your skull. You give it some time, you maybe adjust your foods to something a little healthier and you drink some water and after a while you feel just fine.
Obviously some injuries and pain are a result of structural damage, I’m not saying broken arms don’t hurt or that they don’t need mending; they do. The difference is humans are less like washing machines in need of spare parts only. Washing machines don’t have bad days, or high stress at work, but you do and those factors can absolutely impact pain felt in the body. What I am advocating is that the tiny little aches and pains of life are sometimes just that. An annoyance that we all experience that happen as a natural consequence of being alive.
“If it’s the first day you’ve felt a pain, I don’t do anything about it at all” says Dr. Paxton, our resident Physical Therapist. “Give it a week to see what happens. If it goes away, it was nothing to worry about. If it’s hanging around, then come on in and let’s talk about it.”