What is pain?

Podiatrist assessing pain

What is pain?

Defining pain:

Pain can be defined as ‘An unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage’.

I would like to take some time and ask yourself, What is your definition of pain and have you experienced pain before which you did not fully understand?

Does pain mean tissue damage?

Pain managed with bandaidFrom the definition above pain does not necessarily mean there will be tissue damage. You may experience a lot of pain from minimal damage (e.g. a bindi in your foot) or no pain with moderate damage (e.g. a broken ankle in a moonboot/cast will usually not be painful and can you can still walk on it.)

What impacts pain perception:

Different aspects of our life will influence our perception of pain such as our emotion, sensitivity, beliefs, social life, the health practitioner you’ve previously seen, your past experiences with injury etc.

In a nutshell there are multiple areas of our lives which may influence pain. This is a big win since there will be multiple options for you to consider when managing pain. As health professionals we can guide you to understand why you may be experiencing pain. We can also find management strategies to help calm down your symptoms and aid in your recovery. Keep in mind there are no quick fixes and it will be a working progress as we explore what may work for you!

Alarm System:

Alarm system for painPain is an alarm which is meant to protect you to from something. Just like the alarm you set the night before to wake you up first thing in the morning to trigger into doing something about it. This may be to snooze your alarm, turn it complete off or get up to start your day.

Pain alarm will signal us to take action. For example, if you sprain your ankle, you will feel pain when you move it. Initial the alarm is great at telling us to reduce walking and heavy loads on the ankle to assist with healing.

Consider the following questions:

  • Does a smoke alarm tell you if there is a fire?
  • Does smoke alarms tell you how much smoke there is?
  • Can alarms get more sensitive over time?
  • If the alarm goes off, does it really tell us exactly what the problem is?
  • Can alarms go off with no apparent issue?

From the questions above if we view pain as an alarm system it many help us make sense of some of the odd things about pain what may occur during our lives.

In an acute context pain can be very useful at making us aware of potential tissue damage and allowing us to protect ourselves. However chronic or ongoing pain is less useful and usually is caused by a issue within the nervous system.

This may challenge your beliefs about pain to help facilitate with health behaviours to help you with pain.

Podiatrist assessing pain

If this blog has tickled your pickle and you would like some further reading consider the link attached by Greg Lehman.

Post by: Podiatrist Richard Ching