Pain is your warning alarm that something is wrong in your body. But there are so many types of pain and so many different causes, some of which can go completely unidentified, that pain control isn’t as easy as we’d hope. Because pain is something everybody feels, you may find that when you are in pain your friends and family give you plenty of advice and tips on how to control it. As pain is experienced by everyone differently, and as pain is still not completely understood, which facts about pain are a myth and which are true?
“It’s the weather.”
Do you have an old aunt who tells you the weather must be changing because her joints feel stiff and achy? It may sound like an old wives tale, but this one is actually true. Robert Newlin Jamison, PhD, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School has done a lot of research about how the weather affects on-going (chronic) pain. Of all the people he interviewed about the relationship between their pain and the weather he discovered that two thirds said they were sure the weather affected their pain and many of them could feel the changes before the weather actually turned bad.
Experts think that bariometric pressure, which you can measure with a barometer, can change the pressure in peoples joints. This may affect some people more than others. But arthritis sufferers tend to notice it the most.
“It’s because you’re getting older.”
You didn’t get pain in your teens and twenties, it cropped up in your thirties and forties so therefore the pain is something that happens as we age and something we all just have to get used to, right? False, do not expect your pain to get progressively worse through your life until you are completely unable to move by age eighty. Your pain is most likely the result of an injury or condition, if you leave it untreated then yes, it may get progressively worse (or it may even go away on it’s own). You may not feel like you have injured yourself, but overuse injuries are a common type of injury where a muscle or tendon receives micro tears and strains repeatedly. Overuse injuries can be healed and your pain can be improved just like any other injury, but you need to seek help from a physiotherapist or GP.
“If you had a serious problem you’d be in agony, trust me.”
This statement is false, your body could be damaged but you may not feel it or only feel it mildly. Acute pain and chronic pain are very different.
Acute pain, such as sunburn, will hurt more the worse you have damaged yourself. Sunbathe for 3 hours without sun-cream and you may feel sore, fall asleep and end up staying there all day and you might be throbbing with pain. This is because your skin is more damaged and so, it hurts more. But chronic pain (pain that lasts longer than three months) is more unpredictable. Chronic pain could be very severe, but not have any underlying cause, or it could be mild or niggling but be an indication of something much more serious. You can’t diagnose yourself based on how much it hurts when it comes to chronic pain. If you’ve been suffering from on-going pain, even if it’s mild, then it’s time to get it checked.
“Everyone feels pain differently”
True! Researchers have discovered that if you put the same heat pack on people in the same area, while they are having a brain scan you can see how much the part of their brain that deals with pain is activated. People who reported a higher level of pain from the heat pack, had a higher level of activity in the pain center in their brain. Our spines all handle pain in the same way, but once the pain signals get to our brain, we all react to the information differently. Doctors think how we handle pain may be dependent on our previous experience with pain, emotional state at the time the pain is experienced and what your expectation of the pain may be.
For example, you may feel hyper-sensitive to joint pain when you’re feeling low, but sometimes people in a fight wont notice that they have a broken nose until they aren’t angry anymore and their adrenaline levels are back to normal.
“You should only take pain medication when your pain is really severe.”
This is false, you should take your medication as your doctor prescribes. Your doctor may want to give you painkillers on a regular schedule, or give them to you with the instructions to take them whenever your pain starts to come on. Pain killers are usually prescribed like this because it means your pain can be controlled when the symptoms are mild, waiting for extreme pain may only mean you end up taking more pain killers in the long run.
“If there is no cause of your pain, then it’s in your head.”
False, you may be diagnosed with chronic pain, without your doctor or physiotherapist being able to find any cause for it. Just because there is no identifiable cause, doesn’t mean that the pain isn’t real. Pain is how your brain interprets something called ‘nociception’. Your nociceptors react to what they think is a harmful stimuli and your brain interprets the message. The human body is very complex and there could be many causes of nociception. Doctors are still researching the body and brain.
“Think about something else and it’ll get a bit better.”
This is frustrating advice, you may feel like the person telling you this is trivializing your pain, but it’s true. Your brain can only do so many things at once, if you focus on something detailed and complicated while you’re in pain, then your brain will lessen the focus on it. Ever taken off your shoes at the end of the day and realised that rubbing feeling on your toes is actually bleeding and way worse than you thought it was? You were probably too busy getting on with your day to notice the pain. Talking to a friend, doing a puzzle or reading a book can all help you take your mind off your pain.
What we know about pain is being updated all the time, if you are in pain it’s best to be examined by a professional rather than relying on advice from friends and family. If you have a diagnosis and would like to discuss pain management options that can give you an alternative to pain-killers, or if you are experiencing pain in your body such as back, neck, joint or muscle pain then we can give you a thorough assessment and help you get to the root cause of your pain. Call 0114 268 6677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an assessment.