Food for thought: the complexity of pain

Pain doesn't usually fit into a neat and tidy little box.🎁


To live a fulfilling human life, experiencing pain is N O R M A L. Hear me out.


Imagine for a moment the pain of having your heart broken and how the power of that pain might shifted the course of your life. Maybe for the better and hopefully not for the worse...? 🙃😬 Too touchy, OK. An even simpler example of a particular food aversion after getting food poisoning. Perhaps you still get queasy with the sight and smell of that food and do your best to completely avoid it...? 🤢


The unpleasantness of pain usually prompts us to first slow down, alerts us to tread cautiously, and then makes us figure out a different way way of going forward and to hopefully make a change for the better.


Pain is the PROTECTOR of the body.

Can you imagine living life without a shield of protection?!


Despite what your family, spouse, friend or your healthcare provider says, pain can only be felt and perceived by the individual person. So that means YOU are the expert on YOUR experience of pain. Pain symptoms are oftentimes the sum of past experiences, ingrained beliefs & attitudes, societal & family influence, culture and even your age.


Imagine two individuals coming in for physical therapy to be treated for the SAME exact injury, neither of them will have the same life experience and therefore should never have the same course of treatment. Yes, some medical interventions are very cut and dry---like don't weight bear on a fracture---kind of thing but others not so much. This is where we get into the nuance of where medicine meets art.🎨 Treatment XYZ might work for one patient while it might not work for the other.


Take for example these differences...

☞One patient might perceive their injury with a lot of fear and the other might be fearless.

☞One patient might have a previous experience with a similar injury such as an ankle sprain and the other might be their first one.

☞One patient might have the belief pattern of "I should never/always do XYZ..." about an injury and others know absolutely nothing about it.


You might be able to see how these previous or a new experiences can change a person's experience of pain and the timespan of healing to take place physically as well as mentally.


Pain can also be highly variable with extraneous situations besides the actual injury itself.

➤Ever notice if pain levels modulate up or down with an increase in day to day stress?🤯

➤Or not getting a good nights sleep versus feeling refreshed? 😴

➤Or when you skip meals or eat regularly? 🍱

➤Or when you have an argument with a loved one or a coworker? 😡

➤Or when you feel relaxed and calm after a yoga class? 🧘🏽‍♀️

➤Or when you're about to go on vacation? 🌴


I can keep going on and on but I think you get where I'm going with this. Every individuals response of what excites 🔺 the pain response system is different and what calms 🔻the pain response system is different. Maybe old injuries start to talk to you when the pain response system gets overly excited 🔺🔺🔺. With chronic pain, the system is often in the overly excited phase, it doesn't know when or how to stop protecting the body once the injured tissue has already healed long time ago.


A simple way to start to become friends with your pain (especially chronic pain) is to write down a list of what excites the pain response and what calms the pain response. Once you understand this about yourself, you can start to make baby steps to change. 👶🏼



Click Here for a WONDERFUL online resource from a pain course that I completed called, Explain Pain by the NOI group.



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