5o Shades of Pain

5o Shades of Pain

Jul 30, 2012
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50 Shades of Pain

Pain is pain, right? Wrong!  Pain can come in a variety of situations, can feel very different and can be slight or severe.  One person’s experience of pain is often very different from another’s.  There are many factors that affect how a person experiences and reacts to pain ranging from their previous experiences of pain to their psychological state at the time they are suffering.

Different structures in the body cause different types of pain.  For example, pain of a muscular origin will behave in a fairly predictable way.  We are all familiar with muscular pain after a long walk or a hard session at the gym and we know that the pain and stiffness is often worse the second day but that it is then likely to ease quickly after that.

Most people will be able to differentiate stomach ache from back pain and neck pain from a headache but there are some types of pain that are hard to tie down.  People often struggle to put their finger on exactly where the pain is in certain shoulder problems.  They know it hurts but can’t quite work out exactly where.

We have all bashed our funny bone at one time or another (which is actually our ulnar nerve, not a bone) and have therefore experienced radiating pain.  Once the nerve is irritated we experience pain, tingling and some numbness in the little and ring fingers despite the fact that nothing has happened to those fingers.  This is because the nerve impulses are interrupted at the elbow and the signals that arrive in the brain are interpreted as pain and altered sensation.

We can also experience referred pain from organs that are suffering in a completely different place to where the organ is.  People who have heart attacks experience pain in their left arm and their throat neither of which overlie the structure of the heart.  The gallbladder, which sits just underneath the liver, can refer pain to the tip of the right shoulder and problems with the function of the lower back and pelvis can be mistaken for knee pain or groin pain.

Often symptoms we see in the clinic are made up of several different aspects and types of pain.  For example, many people we see complaining of lower back pain find they have quite a sharp pain in a very specific area of their back but also have a constant ache in a larger, more diffuse area and stiffness when they try to move.  This may well be because the affected joint in the back is inflamed and therefore causes acute pain when the joint moves whilst the muscles surrounding the area are very tight from trying to protect the joint and cause the aching pain and stiffness.

By finding out which pain is which we can create a much better understanding of the problem and in doing so provide much better and accurately targeted treatment to get rid of the pain.  Once the pain is gone you are free to do … whatever you want with your body!


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Simon

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