Pain is an unpleasant, subjective experience which is associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Physiologically, pain is critical for survival, but when pain starts to affect our quality of life, we ask, “how do I get rid of this feeling?”. Well, let me explain…
Before I get started I just want to note, pain is a very complex experience. In this blog, I am mainly referring to acute/chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Why do we feel pain?
To understand how to beat pain, we need to understand the mechanisms of pain first.
Imagine you twist and roll your ankle. Your ankle twists and within a second you are in pain, screaming and probably rolling on the floor. Within minutes, your ankle will be sore and swollen and you will be upset because you now have a busted ankle.
So, what happens physiologically in this short period of time?
When you roll your ankle, inflammatory mediators are released in the blood which stimulate nerve endings called nociceptors.
Nociceptors are present in most of our bodies tissues (muscles, ligaments, organs etc.) and are stimulated by damaging or potentially harmful stimuli.
When the nociceptors are stimulated, they convey a signal of pain from the tissue to the spinal cord.
When the pain signal reaches the spinal cord, it is transmitted up to the brain stem and thalamus, which are the sorting facilities of your brain. The signal gets sorted and directed to one of the multiple areas of the brain that process pain signals.
Once the signal has been sorted and directed, there are multiple sections of the brain that are stimulated, and the perception of pain is initiated.
If a certain body part is in pain, your brain must think it is in danger. So, to get rid of pain, you need to reduce the aggravation, manipulate your brain and increase the confidence your brain has in your body’s tissues.
Utilising manual therapies, such as osteopathy, has been proven to be beneficial in the management of pain.
Osteopaths can help diagnose the injury and then determine the cause and aggravating factors of your pain. Establishing these two things is essential to recovery. Once the aggravating factors are established, we may initially avoid doing that activity to let the painful area heal. This will decrease the pain signals being sent to your brain and will start to increase your brain’s confidence in the tissues.
For example, if your rolled ankle hurts when walking upstairs, we may avoid walking upstairs for a short period of time while the ankle heals.
As your pain decreases, rehabilitation exercises will be implemented to improve strength and biomechanics.
Rehabilitation exercises are so important because they help “switch on” muscles to improve the functionality of your body’s tissues and joints. Rehab exercises may range from a simple hamstring stretch to something more complex like a single leg squat. Stretching aims to improve the range of motion of muscles and joints and resistance training helps improve motor patterns, strength and confidence in muscles and joints. Utilising a mixture of stretching and resistance training will overall improve your biomechanics which will result in a decrease in pain.
Our overall goal with treatment and rehabilitation is to make sure that activities that once caused pain, do not cause pain anymore. Rehabilitation aims to improve your biomechanics so that your body works more as a team. This reduces the chance that joints, or muscles will get dysfunctional and painful.
Pain is a complex experience which can be influenced by a multitude of factors. What I have stated in this blog is a simple and effective way to deal with common musculoskeletal injuries.
If you would like any more information about this, do not hesitate to email us or call us on 9370 4033 to have a chat about this.
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