Pain is a sensation triggered by chemicals released in the body where disease and injury have occurred.
This happens by chemical mediators and irritants binding to receptors in the injured area, which then send information to the brain. This information is experienced as pain.
Pain responses are both physical and psychological, as they exist to tell us that something is wrong. This allows the body enough awareness to avoid harmful movements and activities, providing the body with a better environment to heal.
It’s important to remember that pain doesn’t always indicate tissue damage or harm.
If you have persistent pain lingering for weeks or months, it may not be an accurate indication that the tissue is actually damaged.
In fact, our brains and nervous systems can become overly sensitive to pain. This can create a vicious cycle of us believing that all movements are painful and that all pain is harmful.
If you have been dealing with persistent or chronic pain, a physiotherapist can help you identify the difference between tissue injury and a phenomenon called sensitization.
Acute pain starts suddenly in response to a new injury or disease and is usually short-lived.
On the other hand, chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time and has further implications, mostly revolving around psychosocial factors and sensitization of the nervous system.
Phantom pain suggests there is pain in a part of the body that has been removed.
The theory is that the body’s nervous system has preprogrammed pain pathways that have been established prior to amputation, and that the brain remembers these pathways even after the amputation.
Nerve pain (or neurological pain) happens when a nerve is damaged, compressed, or irritated.
Nerve pain can feel like lancing, burning, sharp pain, or hot sensations. It’s usually accompanied by feelings of numbness, tingling, or pins and needles.
Local pain describes pain that is felt in the same area as the injury.
Referred pain describes pain felt in an area different than that of the injury. This can be both surprising and confusing for patients who thought they knew where their problem was.
Mechanical pain is typically only felt during specific movements or when holding certain postures for a sustained period of time. For example, it may be felt when the tissue is being stretched, compressed, or contracted. It may be relieved through different movements or postures.
Chemical pain typically presents as acute flareups when there is inflammation present. In this case, there are no positions or movements that provide relief. Pain is usually only eased when the inflammatory cascade has subsided.
Understanding where your pain is coming from, specific triggers, and what makes the pain subside will empower you to manage your pain.
Manual therapy can help by decreasing muscle spasms, easing mechanical stress on injured joints, and improving fluid exchange to decongest joints and soft tissue where there is swelling present.
Ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation (TENS), cryotherapy, and thermotherapy can all help decrease pain while promoting healing.
By improving mobility, decompressing joints, improving muscle stabilization, and enhancing flexibility, pain will naturally subside.