Sorry for the somewhat long break, but I am back to blogging once again. This is a continuation of the previous 2 blog posts, if you have not read those first, please take a moment and read them prior to this one. (scroll down)
Today’s post is about a common low back pain myth dealing with the misconception of intensity of pain being linked to the amount of damage occurring in your back. Logically, this idea makes complete sense. More pain must equal more damage, right? Lucky for us, your body is anything but logical when it comes to pain and how much you feel.
In order to understand your back pain more, it is important for you the reader to have a better understanding on what pain is, and what we currently know about pain.
- Pain is an alarm.
- Its function is to let us know that either damage has occurred, or could occur. A large part to my job is to figure out if your pain is from tissue damage, or the perceived threat of possible tissue damage.
- With a new injury (~15 days), pain is good at telling us that we do have tissue trauma.
- Once pain has lasted for several days to weeks, the link between tissue trauma and pain weakens.
- Pain is NOT a good indicator of where the tissue damage is occurring.
- An example is when someone has a heart attack. That person may experience pain in their jaw, back, or arm. None of these locations are the areas of active tissue damage, yet they hurt all the same.
- Pain can even occur without damage.
- Ever heard of a thing called phantom limb pain? It is when someone who has lost an appendage reports pain in the lost hand/foot, even though the tissue itself is gone and the area leading up to it is healed.
- You can even have no pain with lots of damage.
- A great example of this was when I was a teenager, my toe was crushed by a boat during a stormy day on the water. I felt no pain, until I looked down and saw the damage that occurred.
Due to these 6 facts about pain, we cannot assume pain=tissue damage. What I want you to take away from this new knowledge, is that pain is a poor indicator of tissue damage, location of pain causation, and gets worse at these as time goes on from the onset of your pain. While pain in itself is never enjoyable, I hope you can find some relief from these above facts.
Of course, this is just the basics when it comes to pain knowledge. In order to fully assess the variables that affect your back, an evaluation from a trained Physical Therapist would be the safest and quickest road to recovery. Our job is to assess how you move, your overall strength and functional ability, in order to recommend your change in life from being in pain to being pain free.
This is what I do every day. If you have a question about your pain, or would like to be evaluated by myself, please give Altitude Physical Therapy a call at 303-781-3456.
Stay Healthy and Active!
-Joel Fredrickson, PT, DPT
P.S. I would love to hear about new ideas/questions you may have that I can use for upcoming blog posts. Thanks in advance for any ideas you have!
- Lehman, G. Pain Fundamentals: A pain science workbook for patients and therapists. http://www.greglehman.ca/pain-science-workbooks/. 2014