What is pain and why do we experience it? 

It’s a question you may not think to ask yourself until you are suffering from a pain that significantly interrupts your life. As with many things knowledge is power and having a good understanding of pain can help you deal with it more effectively. The most current definition of pain is ‘An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage’.

You might notice from the wording that while pain can often occur when we injure ourselves it can also persist or emerge despite any true injury or tissue damage and similarly you can injure yourself without experiencing any pain. In a physical context we could injure our nerves, muscles, bones, joints, cartilage etc. and these can happen with or without pain as an example many people can have disc bulges on a scan and not have any symptoms.

From this information we can understand that pain is our bodies messaging system to let us know about perceived danger (whether it is real or not), rather than damage and in this way pain can be affected by a large variety of factors ranging from sleep, stress, diet, medical conditions, fear, lifestyle habits and potentially hundreds of other factors that can make us more sensitive. This is often why individuals respond so differently to similar treatments for pain e.g some may swear by Panadol and some find no benefit.

Taking the complexity of pain into consideration may help you consider that injury or any one factor is not the entire cause of your pain and to take a more holistic look at your situation and ask yourself ‘what can I do to be healthier?’ what small steps could you take to assist your brain and body to healing, desensitising and coping with the demands of your life, of course this can be quite difficult to do alone and objectively and a great reason to discuss strategies with your GP and/or Physiotherapist.