I thought I would write a post simply about how pain is created, and to do so I am going to use an analogy based on the recent rainfall in the area.

To use this analogy, think of a painful region as a water catchment area for a river system, which then leads into a dam. There are scientists monitoring the water in the dam to make sure there aren’t any dangerous chemicals in the water that would cause harm to the environment

Now imagine one farmer starting using a really effective weed killer, unknowing it was also very harmful to water life. While one farmer is using the weedkiller, it is barely detectable in the downstream rivers and the dam and the scientist, although aware of its presence, isn’t concerned. Now imagine all the neighbouring scientists realise how good this weedkiller is and they start using it too. Very soon the scientist at the dam detects rapidly increasing levels of dangerous weedkiller and dying fish. This triggers the alarm bells to ring and to take action.

This is very similar to how the brain interprets damage in the body and then creates pain.  Damage signals (weedkiller) produced in a body region (catchment area) are transported by nerve endings (streams), into nerves (rivers) and up to the brain (dam). If only one structure in the body is damaged or inflamed the ‘scientist’ in the brain doesn’t take much notice and generally you won’t feel any pain. But when multiple regions (many farmers) start producing damage signals (weedkiller) then the ‘scientist’ in the brain starts paying attention, and for us then creates a pain to stop us doing whatever it is that is causing the damage.

Simply put there is no pain in the body, only damage signals being sent to the brain. It is the brains job to interpret these damage signals and determine the type and severity of pain that it will make you feel. And remember all these damage signals are like are weedkiller in the dam, it is the scientists (brain) role to make you aware of the potential damage to tell you to take action to prevent further damage.

Interestingly in humans the intensity and frequency of damage signals being sent to the brain can be made greater by many factors. Usually these are things that cause inflammation, damage or stress to the body. Some examples may be:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • High sugar intake
  • Cooking vegetable oils at high temperatures
  • Crispy carbohydrates like potato chips, but even things like fried meat
  • Emotional stress
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor fluid intake
  • Inactivity or low levels of exercise

As Musculoskeletal Therapists we can then use the information that you and your body give us to identify the specific structures and abnormal movements that are sending damage signals to the brain, and develop a treatment strategy to limit the pain progression, achieve mechanical correction, eliminate pain and prevent future reoccurrence.

If you feel you, or someone you know might benefit from a Musculoskeletal assessment please give us a call or book online.