Us ‘health professionals’ refer to pain as the great ‘liar’. That’s right, it’s not real!
Have I got your attention! Good!
Because the information I’m about to share is critically important to effectively managing pain.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Your nervous system is essentially split into 2 parts, conscious and unconscious. The conscious part refers to your skeletal muscles, the one’s you use to move your body around, your skin, and various other structures that relay pain directly to your brain.
The unconscious part refers to your organs, e.g. your stomach, intestines and heart. Pain is indirectly relayed to your brain in this case, ‘piggy-backing’ off your conscious nervous system via a system of neural connections and reflexes.
Do you follow me so far?
Now, as you would expect pain coming from the unconscious parts is not going as accurate as the conscious-direct part. For example, appendicitis can be quite vague and not necessarily located directly over the region where the appendix is.
Dr. Andrew Arnold discusses how conscious pain is quite specific, for example, if you prick you finger your brain quickly determines what, where and how.
You would have heard people saying, there has a high pain threshold? It is true every individual feels pain differently because of a myriad of influences, e.g. hormones, time of day, the mood you are in, what you are doing, medications etc.
You would have also heard health practitioners ask you to grade your pain 1-10. This is called a visual analog scale and believe or not, is still the most accurate way of measuring subjective pain.
So it follows from all of this, that the point at which you feel pain and the intensity and nature of that pain could occur quite sometime after the initial cause, i.e. actual onset. There is a delay and this is based on the differences between individuals and whether we’re talking about conscious or unconscious pain.
In every case, there is a delay. Pain is the last thing to happen, the first thing to go.
Now imagine over time you’ve had low back pain, and you describe it as coming and going. Some days are good others not so good. This has been going on for 2 years say and you’re becoming less clear as to whether it is improving or not.
Let me explain.
The part of the brain that receives the pain message actually shrinks over time. This is another reason why your subjective assessment, albeit consistent and relevant, is not an accurate representation of your actual pain. It is thought the brain adapts to chronic pain by modulating and lessening the message.
Of course, the problem here is, you need more and more pain messages to elicit enough of a message to cause you to take action.
In reality what often happens is, you think things are OK, then WHAM, a Mack TRUCK hits you and you wonder where it came from.
I always hear my patients say, ‘I’ve been so good’!
The conclusion is ‘pain’ is a liar, don’t trust it, it’s usually the tip of the iceberg.
My tip to you is therefore, think about your pain rationally. Listen to your Chiropractor or another health professional; get tests done like x-rays… and manage your body from all standpoints.
Andy whatever you do, do not base your health care decisions solely on your pain!
About the Author:
Dr. Andrew Arnold is Principal Chiropractor and owner, Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre, married to Dr. Linda Wilson, the Stress Specialist and has two children, Isaac and Bella. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.