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I’m in persistent physical pain. What's happening?


TL:DR

  • If you’re in persistent pain, you know how horrendous it is and that it impacts all aspects of life.

  • But with persistent pain, the issue isn’t necessarily in the tissues – it may be the consequence of an over-protective nervous system.

  • We can’t always change what is happening, but we can always change the way we experience it and our relationship with it.

 

 

Pain can be all consuimg, impacting every aspect of our lives (1,2).


Pain also:

·      focuses our attention on a body part that needs protecting

·      gives our body space to heal

·      is a protective feeling that is essential for our survival

·      is an individual experience and is ALWAYS real (1).


Usually, after tissues have healed, inflammation settles, and pain sensitivity decreases. But sometimes, pain keeps occurring long after tissues have healed (1)

 

The flummoxing thing with chronic pain – pain that continues long after an injury should have healed – is that the issues are not in the tissues (1,2).



Strange pain stories

 

A builder jumped on a 15-cm nail that entered his boot and was in excruciating pain. When the nail was removed the pain disappeared, but when the boot was removed it became clear that the nail hadn’t pierced his skin and had gone between his toes (3).

 

People with severe, disabling chronic back pain had almost identical MRIs to people the same age without back pain (1).

 

Approximately 70% of people who lose a limb experience pain as though the lost limb is still there (1).

 

Pain is really strange (2).


Persistent pain

 

When persistent, or chronic, pain occurs, the pain system (brain and nervous system) become overprotective and keep sending signals even though the tissue is no longer damaged (1,2,4). Signs of pain system hypersensitivity can include being more sensitive to mechanical stimuli than to hot or cold things, or the pain moving from one side of the body to the other (1).

 

With persistent pain the influence of other usually becomes greater, such as stress, anxiety, fear of injury, poor sleep, worries and concerns, or even a long journey (1,2)

 

Abnormalities on scans aren’t always the reason for pain. How you are told about your scan results could lead to pain (1).


In the next post, we'll explore how somatic therapy might help you change the way you experience pain and how you relate to it.


References

1.     Pain revolution worksheets. Available at: https://www.painrevolution.org/painfacts (Accessed Apr 2024).

2.     Haines S. Pain is really strange. Singing Dragon, UK, 2015.

3.     Fisher JP, et al. BMJ 1995;310(70).

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