Understanding Pain

All pain is real – but a lot of pain is not dangerous even though it feels it. Understanding your pain is helpful for your recovery.

Osteopaths are highly trained to diagnose the cause of your pain, understand how it affects you and work with you through treatment and advice about the best course of action to aid your recovery.

Acute pain

This is pain that has been there for less than three months Acute pain can occur as the result of an injury. If this pain comes on as the result of an impact, such as a fall, then it will often be accompanied by some tissue damage. A broken ankle for example.

A lot of acute pain however, such as a muscle spasm, can occur without any tissue damage and therefore can be seen more as a danger signal. It is a warning to stop us going on to do something that will cause tissue damage.
Usually even with tissue damage, the damaged tissues will have healed by 3 to 6 months post injury and the pain will have reduced to almost nothing.

However, in some people pain comes on with no injury or persists 6 months beyond injury. At this point it is described as Chronic or Persistent Pain.

Chronic Pain

This pain feels as severe as the tissue damage pain but it is not related to any specific tissue. It is being produced as an output from the brain (as all pain is) and is a Neuropathic or Neural Pathway Pain. Chronic neuropathic pain is similar to the pain suffered by people with phantom limb pain. The brain and nerve pathways are producing pain as they have got stuck in this pattern.

Chronic pain can be variable in it’s intensity and it can move, one day it is in the low back and the next it is in your knee – or both and your shoulders, feet, stomach and head!!! Pain often does appear in an area where we have had a previous injury which can make it feel like the tissues must still be damaged but this is due to pain neurotags. A series of brain and spinal column interconnected neurones that were triggered when an area was originally injured. Chronic pain is incredibly frustrating and is often accompanied by a variety of other symptoms; fatigue, irritable bowel, anxiety or insomnia to name just a few – please see our ‘Associated Symptoms’ page for more details.

The reason for the diversity of the pain and other symptoms is due to chronic pain being linked to central sensitisation. This is probably best described as an overwhelm of the central nervous system.

When the nervous system is overwhelmed it goes into high alert or a fight/flight type response which the body perceives as danger. If the body feels under threat it affects all the different systems; the nerves, the hormones, the gut which is why each person can have such a different array of multiple symptoms.

The overwhelm can be caused by many different factors: Stress, previous injury, previous trauma or emotional trauma, self-induced pressures, lack of sleep and it produces real pain with no tissue damage. Ongoing the pain and other symptoms become a stress in themselves which increases the load.
Getting those around you to understand your pain can be quite challenging so learning as much a you can about your pain will not only help you, but them as well, to see why it can be so diverse and variable. We have included some resources below from Lorimer Moseley and the curable health app that also help explain.

At Osteopathy For All we fully understand your pain and associated symptoms and have developed this toolkit of strategies to be used alongside gentle calming osteopathic treatment to help reduce and manage your pain.
We would be really happy to chat with you if you would like any further information.