An estimated 20%, or 50 million¹, US adults experience chronic pain, which is pain that affects and limits life or work activities. Many people who reach out to me for massage are those looking for relief from chronic pain, so I went down the rabbit hole of pain science to better understand what is happening in the mind and body of people who suffer from chronic pain. During the beginning of my research I found Dr. Greg Lehman’s free eBook called Recovery Strategies Pain Guidebook. It is brilliant and written in plain language for everyone to understand. I took the key concepts and turned them into individual social media posts. Now I am posting them to this blog. I hope you find them helpful.
The purpose of pain is to protect you. It is an internal alarm that alerts you to the threat of damage. The alarm (pain) comes from the brain, not the tissues. It’s not always reliable, and it can go off for no reason or become more sensitive over time.
Pain is poorly related to damage. Structural changes in the body occur with age. Disc degeneration is normal; however not every person complains of back pain. Or consider the last time your bare foot stepped on something like a Lego. I’m sure it hurt like hell, yet it likely didn’t break the skin, or if it did, it was minimal. I’ll say it a million times: pain is weird.
Saying that pain is multidimensional means that there is a lot more to pain than just injury. Stress, work, learned beliefs and expectations, and just pain life factor into it. Addressing the areas of your life that might be contributing to pain can help.
This is where it gets confusing- the brain keep can keep sending signals even when the threat or need has passed
Wondering how pain can be normal? It’s because pain isn’t just about tissue damage. It’s normal to expect your back or neck to feel tension if you stay in one posture for a long time. Add work stress, family stress, any number of emotions you may experience on any given day, and any other factors, then yea, that tension is kinda normal.
Please don’t think you are weak because a muscle isn’t firing. If you are moving, that muscle is most definitely “firing”. Please don’t think you need some sort of maintenance therapy to keep your hips or spine in alignment. Your body is built to withstand movement and the everyday stress you put on it. You are incredibly strong and capable, and a person independent of any diagnosis or injury.
Lots of people have musculoskeletal “dysfunction” yet do not live with chronic pain. You are independent of your diagnosis. Not believing that can get in the way of your recovery.
Related Topics / Blogs:
What Do we Really Know about Pain?
¹Dahlhamer J, Lucas J, Zelaya, C, et al. Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1001–1006. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6736a2