• Spiraling Pain | How pain can worsen, without worse injury or damage

  • Pain is a funny thing and is not at all straightforward.

    The first thing that complicates things is that everyone feels pain differently, Pain is felt not when the sharp pin pricks you (for example), but when that electrical signal gets to the brain and the brain perceives it as pain.

    Pain is a signal to you that you are in real or perceived danger so that you know you should move, change, run away etc if needed. For example, if you stand on a pin, you feel the pain and quickly step off, ideally before you have put full body weight on it. You might then check your foot and there is truly little damage there, it might not have even drawn blood and that is because the degree of pain doesn’t always equate to harm. You felt a sharp, high amount of pain because your brain perceived danger and to make you get off it fast, not because it had done much harm.

    We feel pain based on several factors, depending on past experiences, what you expect to feel, your beliefs and emotional state, to name a few. Therefore, everyone has different pain tolerances and levels – it is a individual thing.

    Now that we know a little of what pain is, let’s talk about how pain can get worse, even if your injury is getting better and what you can do about it.

    Pain is there to tell you that are, or your body thinks that there is potential for danger and is very good at convincing us to do less exercise and activity by resting. Now don’t get me wrong, have relative rest is beneficial, particularly for 48-72 hours after injury BUT, if good and normal movement if encouraged and returned that inactivity can have a negative impact on your pain, function and recovery.

    Inactivity can have negative impacts because physical activity levels have been found to be an important signal or indicator for your brain and body to know whether to amplify or diminish pain signals.

    Less activity (injured or not) makes pain signals stringer and decreases our bodies internal pain-relieving mechanisms. There is a lot of different chemicals and neurotransmitters involved but basically, less activity means your brain feel pain stronger but also you have less of the feel-good hormones etc that would normally help you feel better.

    It just so happens that getting active doesn’t just help you lose weight or get fitter or stronger. It is an effective pain reliever. It is therapy for a heap of different things including 26 different chronic diseases including dementia, depression, back pain, and cancer (based on lots of solid research).

    Don’t let pain side-line you.

    It is real, it isn’t in your head. Pain IS perceived by your head and so we need to listen to pain and take it into account but not let it control us. Pain does not always equate to damage or the amount of damage as, as you know, we can have pain without any damage.

    Physical activity is medicine. Your mind and body thrive on even just a little bit of physical activity every day.