​The Science of PAIN

May 11, 2020

Photo by Ash Wood on Unsplash

What is pain? The true definition is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” The process of feeling pain begins with activating the nociceptors in our body. These sense mechanical, chemical and thermal threats. This signal is communicated through our nervous system to our brains. Our brain then computes this information and determines what to pay attention to, how to cope or how to react. Our brain uses this information to either stop doing something causing pain or can store the information to avoid further damage and/or pain.

The research that has been conducted on pain has given us more information as to why we all feel pain differently. The amount of pain we feel is not necessarily a direct correlation to the severity of the injury. Repetition of a pain signal can amplify the response. Your body can adapt to these signals by becoming less sensitive or in some cases more sensitive. The body can actually create more stress sensors causing the body to be more reactive to pain stimuli. This can lead to chronic pain syndromes and hypersensitivity where even light touch causes extreme pain.

Pain can also be affected by psychological factors. Memories, your emotional state and even your beliefs regarding pain can alter what you are feeling during different incidents. Other factors include your support system and what environment you are in at the time. A study showed that by simply changing the color of a light while conducting the same stimulus changed the level of pain the people reported.

Pain is typically categorized by length of time experienced. Acute pain, less than 3-month duration, vs. chronic pain, more than 3 months. Acute pain usually indicates actual tissue injury/damage. The pain is commonly provoked by certain activity or stimuli and decreases with the removal of that pain source. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is less frequently associated with injury. Chronic pain can be correlated with chronic inflammation, emotion and/or prior traumatic injury. As indicated earlier, chronic pain can lead to hyper sensitivity and can be accompanied by depression and anxiety.

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

How can we help? Seeking treatment from professionals is the first step in pain management. More and more evidence is showing results are more positive with a multi-disciplinary approach, as we offer here at Arvada Sport and Spine Group. We offer physical therapy, chiropractic, and functional medicine interventions.

Specifically, with acute pain, we will first identify the pain source. We will focus on a treatment plan that will promote healing and decrease stress on the injured joint or tissue. We will provide you with guidance on how and when to return to the activities you love. There are so many studies proving quick return to daily activity can speed up recovery times and decrease long-term issues. We will also evaluate movement patterns to improve efficacy and decrease compensation which will decrease the likelihood of recurrence of injury.

In cases of chronic pain, we still will identify what is causing the pain. It may very well be a variety of all the factors from mechanical to emotional. Taking a thorough history can clue in to past injury that may have led to this current state. We will again assess movement patterns and address any compensations. We will diagnose any muscle weakness or mobility restrictions that may be contributing to your pain or abnormal movement patterns. Stress can have a major effect on pain. Teaching relaxion and breathing techniques can be highly effective on pain management as well.

We’ve all had pain and we all experience it differently. The good news is that there are ways to help. We are here for you! Schedule your evaluation with any of our providers at 303-424-9549