Dr Mike Ford, chiropractor at Back 2 Balance in Brighton and Hove, is interested in the orgin of pain, and human responses to it. In this blog Mike gives us his insights into: “where it comes from, how it can be managed, and why it makes no sense!”
What we call pain is one of the body’s many ways of communicating with us. It is used primarily to warn us that something is not going right, however, there are many confusing aspects to it!
In this series of articles we will cover the basics on how pain works, with follow up articles on how you can use it to help you prevent injury and why it sometimes makes no sense.
How Pain Works
Whenever a special type of nerve ending in the body is pushed upon, it will deliver a signal up to the brain telling you that you should feel pain, seems simple enough?
The tricky bit is that you are constantly getting these sort of signals from all parts of your body! So the brain needs to figure out what pain it needs to take care of, and what is just a typical sensation, say, the discomfort of stretching or having a massage, that needn’t be considered dangerous and can actually be very pleasant!
It does this essentially by prioritising pain signals based on many factors, including; How stressed you are, how inflamed your system is, how much damage has occurred, how long you think the pain will last, and often most importantly; how dangerous it assesses it to be!
This may seem very strange but the body will feel more pain if it thinks it is dangerous to you. A great example of this is a story told by one of our leading pain scientists Greg Lehman: In this story he is walking in his garden in Australia and feels a stick on the ground clip his leg, he feels a sharp sensation but thinks nothing of it, a few moments later he goes into shock as a poisonous snake had bitten him!
Some years later, (having of course been treated and recovered), he is again walking in his board shorts and suddenly a searing sensation shoots up his leg, he knows again that he has been bitten by a snake, he falls to the floor, clutching his leg only to find a small cut there where a stick had clipped him.
During the second event his brain categorised the pain he felt as life threatening based on his memory, and so his experience of this sensation was infinitely more severe than in the first instance!
The moral of this story is that often the body will give disproportionate pain to areas that have suffered past injury or when it seems unrelenting! Your body will also give more painful sensations if you are stressed, tired, ill or unused to the movement you are trying to do! This does not necessary mean you are damaged and with some treatment or stretching the mechanical reason for the discomfort can be alleviated and the pain will disappear!!!
So, de-stress, sleep, stretch, and when in doubt, visit your Chiropractor!