By Jess Jefferies
As Physios one of the most common symptoms patients present to us with is pain! Understanding what may cause pain and how to best manage it is complex and has many factors to consider, of which physical injury is only one.
From an evolutionary perspective pain is important for survival as it alerts us to potential threats eg. withdrawing your hand from a hot flame! In fact, there are some very rare medical conditions (congenital insensitivity to pain) where people are unable to feel pain and these people often have a much shorter lifespan as a result.
What is Acute Pain?
The pain you would experience with an injury is known as ‘acute pain’ and often coincides with swelling, an inability to weight bear or use the affected body part and usually will only last for a short period of time.
The intensity of pain experienced from a particular injury varies widely from patient to patient. This could be a result of the difference in severity of injury but also other factors which are equally as important. These other factors include; various life stresses like previous experiences with pain and how it was managed, past injuries, accidents or health conditions, relationships (family, romantic), work, anxiety, sadness or grief, anger, childhood adversity, unresolved painful memories, PTSD, cultural beliefs and many more. Pain can also create stresses itself, such as fear, worry and anticipation of pain and associating the pain with some catastrophic health issue.
Treatment options for pain
The treatment of pain will vary according to the situation and often involves a multimodal approach. Often a combination of pain relief, physiotherapy as well as addressing life stresses can have a powerful impact on reducing symptoms. These are not the only tools used to treat pain. There is now good evidence to show that pain education is effective in reducing severity of chronic pain and that a better understanding of how pain works can massively help reduce physical symptoms, fear of pain and help improve physical function.
One of the key concepts taught in pain education is that regardless of where the pain is felt, it originates in the brain, and this is true for any type of pain (acute or chronic). For example, in the setting of a broken leg – messages from the injured site will be sent to the brain which will decide how much pain that area should feel in order to protect it from further harm. You will begin to feel pain in this area in a fraction of a second. Once we understand that the brain is what determines how much pain is felt in an area, then we can start to understand that the brain is actually the most powerful tool in managing pain. This is not saying pain is imagined or in in your head, it is a real sensation but is influenced positively or negatively by all the factors mentioned above!
Rule your brain and you will rule your pain!!
If you have had an ongoing battle with pain, talk to a medical professional about your options.