Why you keep on thinking pain = damage - even when you're not injured....

This is one of the common challenges that I encounter when working with a person who has ongoing pain. It might even be the single biggest challenge that each person in pain will face.

When you feel pain — do you automatically think….

“S**t, that hurts, I must have done something to injure myself?”

If you do, welcome to the club. There are probably about 7 billion of us in here!

And yet, that might not actually be true.

From a young age, it’s very easy for us to learn that pain happens when we fall and cut our knee, or when we have a heavy impact and bruise appears. If you break a bone, it bloody hurts. We all understand and know this intuitively.

I’m also sure that you have felt pain and been unsure as to how you have ended up feeling pain. You’ve had no recent injury, fall or impact that can account for the level of pain that you are experiencing.

If you are like most, you will blame it on what you currently know is the most likely thing to cause pain.

For most people that is usually some form of injury or tissue damage.

And that might have been caused by other things that you “know” relate to pain like your posture, sleeping in a funny position, overdoing it at the gym, flat feet. body misalignment etc.

All of it is based on your previous experience with this thing called pain.

As we know about the nervous system, the more something gets repeated, the more likely it is that the association or conditioning is strengthened — meaning you are more likely to link those things together in the future because the neural architecture has been built already.

That often leaves you automatically assuming that pain = damage and it rarely gets questioned any further than that.

The bit I want to get at here is that the baseline assumption is usually incorrect — you likely haven’t had any injury at all. In fact, you do not need tissue damage or injury to experience pain.

Pain is likely to be experienced when your brain / nervous system predicts that there might be a potential for you or your body to experience tissue injury or harm.

Key words in that sentence:

  • Likely

  • Predicts

  • Potential

  • You

How your nervous system predicts this is entirely unique to you — which is where the complexity comes in.

  • Your previous injuries may influence what your nervous system perceives as being safe or unsafe.

  • Your belief systems about how fragile or robust the human body is also have a big influence on this prediction.

  • Your understanding of what is happening in your body when you have pain will influence this prediction.

  • The labels or diagnosis that you have received in the past may influence this.

  • The story or narrative that has been built about your symptoms may influence this too.

  • Your lifestyle and habits may influence this.

 

All of these (and more) can influence how your nervous system perceives or predicts the likelihood of potential injury.

ALL of this can happen without ANY change to the tissues of your body.

Pretty crazy right?

So how do you begin to work through this all to understand or change these influences, take action on what matters and ultimately feel better in and about your own body?

  1. You must get clarity on what is happening for you in your situation and usually the easiest way to do this is to find someone who understands how to you help you.

  2. Someone that you trust and that takes the whole person into account.

  3. Someone that can help you to make the shift from pain = damage to pain to pain (in the absence of injury) = protection.

  4. You will likely need support along this journey, especially when things get confusing and when symptoms are difficult to shift.

 

(Let’s face it, if it was simple and not confusing to navigate from regular pain experiences to being pain free — you’d likely have done it ages ago and wouldn’t be reading this blog post!)

With a little guidance, you can move more freely, feel confident and happy in your own skin and pain can become a thing of the past.

If you’d like to work with me to help you out with this, I’d be honored to be a part of your journey.

You can find out how to get started here.

If you found this blog useful, please share it with someone in pain who would benefit from reading it.

David

Leave a Reply