"The amount of pain you experience does not necessarily relate to the amount of tissue damage" David Butler ~ Explain Pain
When I first read that sentence it blew me away. My initial thought?
"Wow, my knee pain does not necessarily mean that I will have to give up running/ stop my classes/ give up my job/ end up in a wheelchair." (Feel free to fill in the blank as I probably thought all those things!)
All my knee pain was really telling me was that there was a perceived threat to my body which caused sensors to be activated (Our bodies have sensors everywhere which are activated when anything changes within our body). In activating my sensors a message was sent to my brain and it was there that my brain decided that I needed to do something about my situation, thus producing pain (something none of us can ignore).
But it was only a message. It wasn't necessarily that there was anything being damaged. And more pain does not equal more damage just as no pain does not mean that everything is fine.
For example, there are situations where people have had arms and legs ripped off but experience no pain whatsoever. There are others with life threatening cancers who also experience no pain. If pain really did correlate with tissue damage these two examples would produce bucket loads of it, right?
Exactly. The amount of tissue damage does not correlate with the amount of pain.
On the other hand there are times when we experience great pain but with hardly any trauma. Think papercuts and stubbed toes!
Now I get a lot of people in to see me who have persistent back pain who have been told that there is nothing wrong with their back from their doctors. They have even had scans which confirm this. So why the hell are they still experiencing this pain. There must be something being damaged right?
Nope. Not necessarily. Again, pain is only a message from your brain as a response to the sensors within your tissues being activated. And these can be activated for so many different reasons.
Again if these sensors are activated they send a message to the brain. It is the brain that decides if it is dangerous and if we need to do something about it
But the thing is, the more the sensors are activated, the more sensitive they become. The more the brain sends the pain signal to the body, the more likely it will do it again and again. The whole system becomes shit hot at protecting you from dangers. But this is not necessarily helpful when you want to live your life without the worry of pain!
Now for the majority of people, there is a way to live a life without pain. But the take home for you today is that the amount of pain you experience does not necessarily relate to the amount of tissue damage.
That’s not to say you go for 'no pain no gain' mentality. That doesn't help in the long run. But neither should you fear pain. Because that doesn’t help either. Getting somewhere in between is what you really want to be looking at. But that's for another post.