No Pain, No Gain

As a physical therapist for well over 20 years, I have treated thousands of people who come into the office in physical pain. Some have recently begun to have pain and that’s why they went to the doctor in the first place and others have been in pain for many months or many years and have been to many doctors seeking a solution to their pain. It has been fascinating to observe how people handle pain, understand pain, process pain and view it in the overall scope of their life. At least once a day I hear a patient say, “No pain, no gain.”  It’s interesting to see how common that viewpoint is in our society. But there are different types of pain and reasons for pain that shouldn’t be lumped into a single simple saying. Without getting too technical and deep into physiology here, pain is generally a protective signal sent from a nerve to the brain warning it that there is a situation of injury, inflammation or damage occurring in a particular muscle or tissue. Typically, the brain responds by telling the muscles to contract to pull away and protect or to shut off to avoid further damage or injury. Interestingly enough, could emotional pain be viewed in a similar way? Don’t we often contract and pull away or just shut down when we suffer from emotional pain? Something else I have observed over the past 25 years working with people in pain is the connection between physical pain and emotional pain and the immense power of the mind. Have you ever been upset with your spouse or co-worker and ended up with a stiff neck, headache or upset stomach? Would you say that is emotional pain showing itself as physical pain? Have you ever been worried over finances or bills and somehow woke up with back pain? Did you wonder what the reason was for the back pain or did you think you simply slept “wrong”? In our society, physical pain is the only pain that is acceptable to discuss openly, and emotional pain is somehow viewed as a weakness and something to be hidden and covered up.  Our bodies are nothing short of wonderful masterpieces and powerfully controlled by our mind. When we become more aware of what the mind is doing, we start to see why things sometimes manifest themselves in our bodies as pain. Here are some basic tips to think about when you have pain: 1. Breathe. Take slow deep belly breaths.  Allow your belly to rise as you inhale.  This increases the amount of oxygen flowing into your tissues, adjusts your nervous system and calms your mind. 2.Observe. Take a look a the situation. Are you stressed or upset about something? Are you doing something you don’t want to do? Are you operating from a position of fear or avoidance? Are you doing something your body is not currently flexible or strong enough to endure? 3.Get the Facts. Obtain knowledge about your body, how it works and your condition. Ask questions! I can’t tell you how many people I treat who are reluctant to ask questions about their bodies.  If you understand, for example, how the shoulder joint works, you probably are going to have a better understanding of what to do and what not to do to avoid further injury or damage. Changing behaviors and movement patterns can completely change the mechanics of the situation and significantly impact your pain level. 4.Journal. Write down what type of pain you are feeling.  Is it burning, throbbing, stabbing, aching,etc? What type of activity have you been doing? Write down any stressors you have had at work, at school or at home. When you write things down you can begin to see patterns and this will be very useful in helping you and/or your healthcare practitioner to better understand what’s going on in your body.  It makes my job more challenging and difficult to be effective when I first treat a patient and for example they tell me nothing happened to cause their back pain and then 2 weeks later they  nonchalantly mention that they fell 4 months ago and fractured several ribs or that they got fired from their job and are suing their employer. 5.Take Action. Whether it’s adjusting your computer station, learning proper body mechanics, reviewing a new technique in your sport, opening up and communicating your feelings, speaking to a healthcare professional, your teacher, a coach, or your supervisor about your situation, take action to make a change.  Nothing will change until you do. When you start to observe how your body speaks your mind, you begin to unlock the power of healing. Your mind put you where you are today and it will put you where are a going to be tomorrow. So next time you hear someone say, “No pain, no gain,” think about what you are willing to gain by looking at pain in a different way.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *