How Does Pain Really, Really Work?
When Pain Is Your Friend
Pain is your danger alarm system. Your friend.
You’re not buying that, are you?
I didn’t either several years ago. But that’s when I decided to contemplate, investigate, and correlate. Is there a difference between “hurting” and “paining”?
Very interesting how words that are nouns just stand still and demand respect for …well, just being themselves and doing nothing! On the other hand, words that are verbs create movement, action, and direction. (lots more on this later which you will love!)
How does pain really, really work?
Bear with me here for a couple while I tell you all some things most of you already know. People that suffer with persistent pain often think of themselves as suffering from a specific ailment, whether it’s arthritis, back pain, migraines, or something else.
However, anyone who has experienced pain for many months or longer also happens to be among the millions of Americans suffering from a condition known as chronic pain. Chronic pain conditions now affect more than 116 million Americans according to the Institute of Medicine, a figure than dwarfs the number of people who suffer from diabetes, coronary heart disease/stroke and cancer combined. Despite years and years of research, chronic pain remains poorly understood and notoriously hard to control.
Unfortunately, too many patients rely on prescription drugs as an isolated therapy to treat their pain. I agree that pain meds play an important role in the treatment of chronic pain, but many pain sufferers rely on powerful prescription painkillers to mask it.
A survey by the American Academy of Pain Medicine found that even comprehensive treatment with pain killing prescription drugs helps, on average, only about 58% of people with chronic pain.
Having told you stuff you probably already know, permit me to introduce information about pains, brains, and gains that you more than likely haven’t been privy to.
Oh, and of course, the first step in coping with any chronic or persistent pain is to receive a thorough medical evaluation to determine the cause of the pain. That just makes good sense.
With all of that being said, let me ask the question again: How does pain really work?
Pain really is amazing.
No, really. You touch something hot and your brain triggers a reflex action that causes you to withdraw your hand, protecting you from injury and concludes that your body is under attack. Also (hopefully), the memories of the pain will protect you from making the same mistake twice.
That kind of pain is good.
That kind of pain is normal. It’s the most powerful and important protective device we have. We get pain from scratches, strains, sprains, and other everyday events that can be related to changes in tissues.
But not all pain is good for you. There is that other kind of pain that is more like a curse: chronic pain that is not related to injury. This is the kind of pain that fills doctor’s waiting rooms and makes life miserable.
Pain is a matter of biology but it is also a biological enigma. It is protective, but not always. Its effects are not only sensory but also emotional. There is no way to measure it objectively, no test that comes back positive for pain and the only way a medical professional can gauge pain is by listening to the patient’s description of it.
Going back several years, do you remember the old Hee Haw show? Where the guy would say; “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” and the doctor would say, “Well, then don’t do that!”
Unfortunately, not much has changed even with all the diagnostic equipment that’s out there these days. If it hurts don’t do it. But why does it hurt?
I know, I know, I’m preaching to the choir here, but to start our coping journey we have to begin with the bare bones of it all and understanding pain biology will change the way you think about pain and how to manage it.
Coping with your pain means you have the power to change it!