The Truth About Pain

Rauraidh Purnell
December 29, 2022

When you feel pain is it because there is damage to the area?

Is that the only reason that you can feel pain?

Most of you probably answered yes to both questions. It makes logical sense and it’s how we have been taught pain works.

But, and it’s a big but, sometimes that’s not always the case. Here’s why.

The nervous system is a protective machine

Its job is to sense our environment, perceive it, and effect a response. So when we try to use a tea towel to take the Christmas roast out of the oven and it’s not quite thick enough but you chance it and burn your fingers, your nervous system senses the pain, and your brain says put the hot object down you fool! Or you fell off a slide or a tree as a kid and you had a deformed limb or a bone sticking out, the effective response from the nervous system is pain. 

And to be clear I am not saying in those instances that there has been no physical damage contributing to the pain you would feel, I can just imagine running up to someone who has just broken a bone saying, the pain you are feeling isn’t real it’s just a sensation from your nervous system so stop your crying! Ironically that would be incredibly insensitive.

It’s not that there hasn’t been any physical damage to an area, it’s how you perceive it, and by you, I mean your nervous system.

What else impacts our nervous system??

What impacts our nervous system could be better asked via the question; ‘what impacts how we feel?’ Some answers that come to mind might be; how well rested you are, if you have eaten recently (hanger is real – at least for me), higher stress and anxiety levels. These all make us more sensitive to our environment, we perceive things very differently if we are tired, hungry, and anxious. Patience vanishing is the same as sensitivity rocketing up.
So if our nervous system is sensing the world around us and is more sensitive, it makes sense that we could perceive the same inputs differently. A way I think explains this well, is when I would play rugby and it was really freezing winds and hail, every tackle felt worse and the ground felt harder. Versus playing in the sunshine, the tackles were the same and the ground was probably just as hard, but it never felt as sore. These examples are everywhere when you look for them. Another example is different pain thresholds, if you believe you have one then you probably do, I know of people who had a dull ache every now and then in their leg for a while, eventually went to the doctor, had an x-ray and there is a fracture. Yet they’ve been walking around on it, not perceiving pain.  

Evaluating pain

So what does that mean for how you should evaluate the pain you feel in your back, knee, shoulder etc? It means, consider lifestyle and psychological factors alongside physical factors when you are experiencing some form of pain that debilitates what you want to do. The physical and psychological are intertwined and can’t be separated. It may be that instead of seeking a health practitioner you may need to work on sleep habits, or work:life balance, or nutrition. 

The technical term we use at G2G is the bio-psycho-social model, our coaches receive specific training from highly experienced psychologists about how to manage pain and help our members overcome it. 

If you can relate to this article, we can help, reach out and we can discuss it with you. 

Interested to know more about how we can help?

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