This is a question I frequently get asked.
“How come I still have pain when I originally hurt myself 6 months ago. Should it not be healed by now?”
The simple answer to this is that the original injury probably has healed by now.
So why do you still feel pain?
Pain is quite complex and can hang around longer than it should, if it is not dealt with properly, And this is where it can become a long term issue.
So, to help you get out of pain and to help you get back to activity and pain free movement it helps if you understand a little bit about how pain comes about and more importantly, why it can linger on.
Pain is an alarm!
Pain happens when your brain perceives damage or the threat of damage and wants some action to be taken.
It is an excellent way of protecting the body and with acute injuries, pain is important to protect the area and allow your body to limit movement and rest, to allow for initial healing.
However, it is not very good at telling us what is causing the pain or where it is coming from.
Think of a house alarm going off, but no one has broken into the house.
Or a fire alarm setting off the water sprinklers in one part of a building, but the fire might be at the other end of the building.
And just like an alarm, pain can become more sensitive.
Again if we think of a security guard protecting a warehouse that was broken into a few times. The guard is going to be nervous and on high alert and more likely to sound the alarm, at even the smallest incident.
Your body too, can become better at sounding the alarm and when it is sensitive or on high alert, it can sound the alarm and cause severe pain, for even the most minor movements.
So what causes pain?
Your body has nerves and receptors running all around it. Their job is to sense changes that occur like temperature, movement and pressure and they send messages to the spinal cord, which sends them to the brain.
Now the brain has to decide if these messages mean that your body is under threat or in danger. If it thinks so, then it will react and get you to move or cause pain to offer protection.
Think of when you put your hand too close to a fire.
Or if you sprain your ankle, then it swells and becomes sore, to allow you to rest and heal.
Your brain has to make a decision about whether the signals, coming from the messengers in your body, means if your body is in danger and if it should give a pain output……
….and there are lots of things that can influence this decision.
Some of these are:
The signal coming from the muscle, tendon, ligament ( is it a broken bone or a strained muscle)
Previous experiences ( Is it the same leg you hurt before that kept from running for 6 months)
The environment your in ( Has your father, your grandfather and your brother also suffered with back pain)
Who your with and how they react ( think of a child who only starts crying when they hear the reaction from their parent)
Your stress/ anxiety level at the time (Are you busy with work, college, or have an important match coming up)
What you believe and what you’ve been told ( Your best friend hurt their back doing the same movement and she has been in pain for 3 years)
Your sleep and fatigue levels ( Are you getting proper restful sleep or are you waking up feeling stiff, achy and exhausted)
(I like the example of an article I read about a guy who stepped on a nail and was in excruciating pain until he went to the hospital and they removed his boot to find that the nail had pierced his boot and gone up between his toes and he was unharmed.
Needless to say his pain disappeared.
So basically, there are lots of things that can influence your pain and you can have pain without damage or injury to your body and you can damage to your damage to your body and have NO PAIN.