What is pain?
Most individuals that come to see an osteopath or physiotherapist do so because they feel some kind of pain or discomfort. Feeling physical or emotional pain is common for most of us. Understanding this pain and how to deal with it may help us deal with it.
Pain is more than a sensation.
The pain system is designed to protect the body from harm, so it is both a warning and protective system. Initially, pain is a signal that helps you to avoid any injuries. Therefore, you may feel pain before any tissue damage has occurred. Once a damaging event has taken place, the pain system helps to protect any further damage and makes you aware so you can protect them.
Apart from the pain described above, pain can also be caused by emotional events such as grief, regret, loss, or distress. Emotional stress is often not taken as seriously but can be very intense and can manifest as physical pain and cause unwell-being and suffering.
Due to the multifactorial origin of pain, every person that is in pain needs to be regarded as a whole.
Why is pain so difficult to understand?
Pain is a totally subjective sensation. What may feel like nothing to one person may be excruciating to others. So we cannot judge someone’s level of pain based on our own experiences.
Pain always comes from the brain.
Once an accident has happened, the injured tissue sends a pain stimulus to the brain via the nerves. This stimulus will be processed within the brain, and the pain sensation will then be sedt back to the corresponding area. How this signal is interpreted by the brain differs for each individual and may be more or less severe depending on previous experiences and state of mind.
The important role of the brain in the perception of pain
When an accident occurs during an activity or stressful period, the pain may not be noticed until the body has calmed down and the adrenaline levels have decreased. The pain stimulus is simply overwritten by something that seems more important at the time. Therefore, some kind of distraction is often a good technique to take your mind off the pain unless it leads to more harm.
A different well researched area is the placebo affect, studies have shown that if patients recieve sugar pills instead of pain killers, a pain reducing effect can be observed only because the individual thinks that they are feeling better.
This calls into question some of the modern day medical interventions and their usefulness.