Have you ever heard those stories of Soldiers who get shot in active combat but don’t notice or even feel pain until later when they get to safety? Or athletes who can push through a game even though they have a fracture? Or people who feel no pain from an injury until they look at it and see it is bleeding? Why is this?
Firstly we have to understand why the body produces pain. Our brain’s number one goal is to protect us. You have to admit that pain is a very loud and convincing message that makes us change our behaviour and seek help. So in the case of the soldier, the body’s biggest danger is that it is in the middle of a war zone,. Pain is counterproductive at that point, but when the soldier is safe again, the gun shot becomes the next largest priority and therefore painful. You might have your own stories of occasions where you didn’t notice the pain until later.
Pain comes from the brain as a result of your brain weighing the world, all the dangers, positives and needs, and deciding if you require protecting or not. Your brain considers your fatigue, stress, emotional state, memories (good and bad) and even what the injury will mean for your work/sport, identity, financial situation and much more.This might help make sense of why the pain suddenly reduces as soon as you walk into the GP/Physio/ Dentist clinic. Or why the pain reduces when you finally get a diagnosis and explanation. It helps explain why the pain can be much worse when it threatens your job, family or even an important hobby. More tissue damage doesn’t equal more pain. More danger that outweighs the positives can increase our pain.
So what does all this mean for us in our day to day?
- It is important to understand your pain, if you don’t and it’s worrying you, ask questions!
- Managing our fatigue, stress and emotional concerns can help. It might be as simple (or hard) as doing something relaxing like a gentle walk around the block.
It’s all wonderfully complex so keep asking us questions if you are interested.