Pain is complicated. It’s designed to be a warning system of damage, or potential damage, being done to the body. That’s why it’s unpleasant – you want to avoid it, and therefore you avoid those situations might be harmful. It’s a protective mechanism.
However, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it gets a bit carried away. You carry on feeling those unpleasant sensations after the injury has gone. Consider those poor souls who suffer “phantom limb” pain – the offending body part has been removed, and yet still triggers pain sensations.
How does this happen? Well, pain is more than just a signal from a nerve ending to the brain. It’s a complex experience that reflects what’s happening in our central nervous systems (spinal cord and brain), our emotions and beliefs, our previous experience. Ever noticed how bad pain can be when you’re not sure what the cause is, and you’re worrying about it? And how the pain can be hugely eased just by having someone explain that it’s ok, it’s nothing to worry about? That doesn’t mean it’s “all in the mind” (although pain, by definition, is all in the mind!) – it just demonstrates the complexity of our experience.
Chronic pain is common. It’s defined as pain that lasts for more than twelve weeks. For many it reoccurs intermittently. Because chronic pain is so multifactorial, its management needs to take all those factors into account. That’s why your osteopath wants to know about you as a person – your beliefs, eating habits, stress, lifestyle, sleep – not just where the pain is. That way, they can help you develop a plan to help you understand your pain, learn coping strategies, and get things back on track.