Have you ever wondered why sometimes when you tell me about your pain, I seem not surprised by it or try to downplay it?
I am not trying to be a jerk. I am trying to help decrease your pain perception. Pain is complex and is more than just sensors in our skin, bones, muscles, and fascia sending “pain signals” to our brain. It is more than the red and swollen area. It is more than the damage. Higher ratings of pain don’t actually have any correlation to more damage to the area. I have seen athletes compete on broken bones. I have seen athletes take themselves out of competition with mild sprains. It is more than this idea of having a “high pain tolerance”. Pain itself is a signal to the brain that something hurts, but it can be heightened by other’s response to our painful incident and even prior memories about having a similar injury. Interestingly enough, pain perception can also be developed by how we observe our parents deal with pain and injury.
Similar prior pain incidents build memories and neural connections that can lead to earlier perception or heightened perception of pain. This means that if you roll your ankle, odds are the next time will be perceived as more painful if the first incident is highly memorable. You can’t really change your memories of pain, but you can think empowering thoughts, such as, “I am able and strong and can recover from this injury.” You can also choose to always do active rehab after injuries to help not only properly heal the tissue, but also desensitize the experience and area. By getting back to movement as quickly as possible, you are also overcoming the mental limitations that injuries often impose. It is truly amazing what our body and mind are capable of!
Likewise, when people around us make noises or have an increased reaction to watching us in pain, it can heighten our perception of pain. That is why I try to carefully choose the language I use with patients. This is also the basis behind having younger children get up and start moving after falling. By encouraging them to get up, they learn that they can get past bumps and scrapes. So, if you have hurt yourself, it is of no use to you nor I to exaggerate my reaction to the pain. It is best to stay levelheaded, informative, and encourage you to be an active member of the healing process. I also use empowering language and encourage movement and exercise because that will help you realize that you can get yourself past the pain. This will also help you face other painful stimuli with less “over reaction”. In addition, it will also help heal the tissue more quickly from a physiological standpoint.
Just remember you are more powerful and more capable than you realize. Movement is medicine and you have the power to heal yourself!
Have a fantastic week folks!
Cindy VanSickler, DC, CCSP, Cert. MDT