As August comes to a close and September follows closely behind with fall on it’s heels, what comes to mind? The final pool party of summer? The kids finally headed back to school? Or maybe you’re most excited about cheering on your favorite college football team every Saturday? But did you know that September is also National Pain Awareness Month? No? Well, let’s raise some awareness!
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.” Now, this may sound a bit like alphabet soup, so let’s break it down!
An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience
Pain is not a simple physical sensation. In reality, pain is highly a complex and multifactorial phenomenon that we continue to learn more about every day. How a human, or any other biological being for that matter, experiences pain is determined by a variety of factors, including life experiences, emotional state, and even social status. So, while we all have experienced pain at some point in our lives, we don’t all experience and react to pain in the same way because we all experience life differently.
Associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage
Due to the highly complex nature of pain, the severity of pain does not always correspond to the severity of actual damage to the tissue.
Imagine this: you just got into a huge fight with your significant other. You tossed and turned all night, getting only 2 hours of sleep. You’re then running late to get to work, so you grab a candy bar for breakfast. At work, your boss reams you for making a trivial mistake on a project. You’re emotional, a little dehydrated, and coming down from a sugar high. You bend over to pick up a pen that you dropped and as you stand up you feel a pang of pain in your lower back that shoots down into your hip.
Any other day, you may have felt this pain but rated it as no worse than a 2/10 and moved on with your day. But today, your nervous system was already on high alert due to the perceived threats of the past 24 hours (lack of sleep, poor nutrition, emotional state - like I said, it’s complex!) so instead, this pain registers as an 8/10.
Does this mean that you have damaged more tissue today than you would have last week? Absolutely not. More than likely, there isn’t any actual tissue damage. Your brain simply perceived this sensation as a potential threat and it reacted to protect you.
So if you are experiencing pain, what do you do?
Stay active! Apart from severe injuries such as broken bones and open wounds, the body needs movement! Bed rest is a thing of the past. You may have to modify some movements to offload irritated tissue, but you should move often!
Be patient! Pain may occur in an instant, but it rarely ends in the same manner. You have to put in the work and practice patience, but you can get out of pain!
Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or medical professional. Discussing your pain with someone you trust can help to determine the source of your pain and the appropriate next steps. Did you know Renew Wellness offers a FREE 20-minute session? During this appointment, you can do just that!