Pain is a complex and normal subjective experience in response to what the brain judges to be threatening. Our brain takes our current emotional state and past memories into account when analysing incoming sensory information. The unpleasant feeling of pain is the product of the brain’s analysis. Its purpose is to prevent serious injury and to avoid exceeding our limits by detecting “risky behavior.” It often forces us to adopt protective behaviors, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
The intensity of pain and its unpleasantness are not necessarily a good indicator of how bad the injury is. Past experiences, emotional context, and the nature of the event surrounding the painful experience all influence the intensity of pain. For example, a rugby player could fracture their wrist from a hard hit during a final game, and only realize it after the game. That same player could have felt intense and immediate pain from something as small as a paper cut that same day.
A precious warning
The pain that occurs in the shoulder when you raise your arm, your lower back when you sit for a long time, in your neck while you are reading, or even in your knee after a new sporting activity shows us that there is potential for injury to the area, but likely without significant tissue damage. The feeling of pain or discomfort tells us that we have gone beyond the body’s ability to adapt to the stress it has been subjected to. This is considered a warning.
When to consult?
Pain causes changes in the body’s motor response, where the body subconsciously changes the way muscles are used to move. Repeating a faulty movement pattern due to compensations such as these places the body at even greater risk of developing further tissue damage.
When a painful sensation persists, waiting is not always the best solution. It is justified to consult your physiotherapist in order to adequately manage the initial injury to avoid encouraging poor movement patterns, which can cause persistent pain. Additionally, it is important to change the perception of the pain quickly. Our body and our brain have a good memory!