Ouch, That Hurts!

How pain is actually good for you

How pain is actually good for you
By Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, D.C.
Something I do often with my patients is discuss pain. It’s one of the only things that when you get it, you can’t wait to rid yourself of it. But the unpleasantness of pain is the very thing that makes it so effective and an essential part of life.
Pain protects you, it alerts you to danger, often before you are injured. It makes you move differently, think differently and behave differently, which also makes it vital for healing.
Sometimes, however, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Ever notice how much a little paper cut can hurt? Or a canker sore on the inside of your mouth can debilitate you? Sure, it’s a bummer. But the fact is that pain (although unpleasant), is a normal response to what your brain judges to be a threatening situation.
Your brain is key to controlling and handling pain. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see what I mean…just witness those people who can walk over piping hot coals, or musclemen who can pull a truck with their teeth! Bottom line is that if problems do exist in your joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, immune system  — or wherever — it wont hurt if your brain does not register it as such.
Most commonly pain occurs when your body’s alarm system alerts the brain to actual or potential tissue damage. But this is only part of a big story. Pain actually involves all of your body systems and all of the responses that occur are aimed at protection and healing.
Ask any person suffering from chronic pain and they'll tell you it hurts, but they can function with it. It’s because they have learned to live with it and have adopted life strategies to deal with it. Ask anyone who has a low threshold and is in pain — they shut down and are unable to function.
In the case of pain, the perception is just as real as the reality. That’s something many people, including many health professionals, do not fully understand. But understanding pain — its effect on the brain and its role in protecting your overall health — can do wonders to help you deal with it and manage it more effectively.

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Barbara Moroch April 20, 2012 at 03:42 PM
If you're saying that pain has as much to do with your brain's perception of it, what kinds of mental strategies can I use to help lessen pain? I ask this because I have been suffering with achilles tendenosis for two years now and no medical treatment seems to help! Thanks...
Dr. Friedman April 23, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Their are for argument sake two types of personality profiles that are most common. the first type pain kicks in at a certain amount of activity, for ezample cycling, walking a certain distance, using a computer for a certain time or attending a lengthy function. The natural response is to stop the activity when pain starts. Over time the amount of activity at which pain is experienced slowly reduces, eventually leading to disability, disuse and probably depression. In my experience, this pattern is more common in people who are afraid of pain and re-injuring tissues and for people who are "passive coopers". The second is the boom or bust pattern in which pain comes on bout you persevere, you tolerate it as much as you can, and try to ignore it, until it goes boom and lays you up for several or more days. In my experience, this pattern is more common in people who are perfectionists, high achievers, energetic or who perceive that other people or institutions are in control of their situation. Does any of this fit with your situation?
Barbara Moroch April 29, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Yes, I'm definitely the kind who is afraid of pain and think that "working through it" will only worsen the situation.


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