Surprising reasons you feel pain and secrets to drug-free pain relief
Whether your pain started with an acute injury or you experience ‘mystery’ back pain, neck pain or headaches, the matrix of body and mind factors involved in your experience of pain is complex. Here’s how a qualified health professional can help to relieve pain permanently and drug free.
How pain works and why you ‘feel’ it
Pain is not just a simple message from injured joints and muscles, but a complex experience that is filtered through your brain. It involves many ‘conversations’ that can be influenced by all sorts of factors – not just how severely the tissue is injured. In fact, ‘pain’ is made by the brain, not the body part or tissue where you ‘feel’ it. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to reduce pain to a single cause or remedy. Complicating things further, pain can be misleading (you may experience ‘referred pain’ at a site away from the injury). And then there are mistakes and misguided attempts by the brain, which takes each danger signal and evaluates it based on myriad factors including memory or prior experience, before producing a response. In some cases, it may ‘cause’ pain to protect you from further damage (say, experiencing pain with a certain movement the brain considers dangerous), even when the movement is, in fact, safe!
Mind over matter
Does that mean pain is mind over matter and that we can think pain away? Should you be seeing a psychologist instead of a physio or chiropractor? While chronic pain can certainly benefit from psychological interventions, in most cases of pain, not quite. If you are experiencing muscle or joint pain, it is likely that there is a physical problem that may benefit from physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment or remedial massage. But even where the physical target is an injured muscle or joint, the brain is a key consideration (chiropractors are experts in the role of the central nervous system and work with the complex interplays that underpin the pain experience).
Decoding the pain dialogue
All those questions your physio or chiro asks about your pain and movement experience – in addition to diagnostic tests – are designed to identify what’s really going on with your body and brain to produce the experience of pain. These highly-trained health practitioners are like expert listeners and decoders of the complex dialogues that culminate in your subjective experience of pain or barriers to free movement. For instance, headaches may be caused by a problem with your spine and benefit from chiropractic adjustment rather than pain relief pills that merely mask the pain. In another case, the inability to turn one’s neck to a full range of motion may not be directly caused by the injury or condition, but the brain’s attempt to prevent further damage. In such cases, as well as hands-on techniques and exercises to rehabilitate the injury itself, certain techniques and exercises may be used to gently reassure the brain that one can safely perform a movement.
In good hands
There’s a whole lot more to being under the care of a trusted healthcare professional than what they ‘do’. Aside from targeted, hands-on interventions and exercises that promote recovery of injured tissue, consulting an accomplished and empathic healthcare professional can encourage the brain to reduce the severity of the pain experience. Feeling less pain after consulting a healthcare practitioner can be attributed not only to the treatment provided, but also to the reassurance and confidence that the pain will subside and that there are solutions. Learning about the causes of pain from a qualified practitioner such as a physio or chiropractor can also reduce anxiety about how ‘bad’ it is (you know, when your mind runs away with worst-case scenarios?), in turn reducing the perception of pain. It’s a bit like when a child falls and grazes their knee and continues playing happily until they see blood and start crying, ‘it hurts’! Yet when an adult reassures them, and perhaps applies basic first-aid, it ‘feels better’!
In short, there is no simple answer to, ‘why am I in pain?’. The good news is that diagnosis and targeted treatment by a healthcare professional versed in the latest pain science, combined with recommended self-management strategies, will very likely deliver pain relief and allow you to return to living a full, free and satisfying life.
If you’d like to be free of pain and are not sure which treatment type you need, our knowledgeable client services team can help guide you towards the best possible treatment for lasting relief from injury and pain.