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Pain Explained 

September 2017 

Pain Explained 

Pain protects you. You twist your ankle stepping off a curb and once you feel the pain, you limp to avoid it. Pain makes you take action to protect yourself. 

So with that sprained ankle, you hobble around a bit, protecting the area from future harm. Perhaps you get some Physical Therapy and by six weeks, tissues heal and even sooner pain subsides. That’s normal. 

Your body has over 45 miles of nerves sending messages from tissues to the brain for analysis. By the time you experience pain, a cascade of events has already happened that brings you to the realization that something hurts. Nerves act as an alarm system to make you pay more attention to those pesky curbs and other threats.

What if pain persists? 

When pain persists, it’s because your brain thinks your ankle, in this case, is in danger and needs protection. Your environment is perceived as threatening. You have no say in this. It is happening outside of your awareness or control. So, if your environment feels threatening for any reason, pain can persist. This threat could be psychological, biological or social in nature, putting your nervous system on high alert. 

Factors that affect pain 

Now what? This is where research on pain comes in. 

Over time, a hyper-vigilant nervous system becomes less accurate relaying what is actually happening. We call this smudging. You might have trouble telling right from left, and you might be more sensitive to cold, pressure, or stress. The longer pain persists, the

weaker the correlation between degree of injury and level of pain. It also takes less provocation to increase your pain. 

Therapists at ALTA have training in Pain Neuroscience – how the nervous system processes pain. We have learned how much words matter, how movement matters, and how stress matters. We know that compassion matters. We continue to educate ourselves on the neurobiology and neurophysiology of pain so we can help you recover better and faster. 

What We Now Know About 

Education empowers. The more you know about pain and how it works, the better you can take charge and manage it. Less fear translates into less pain. 

Pain is personal. What works for one person may not work for you. But having many different tools and pain relief strategies allows us to individualize a plan that works best for your situation. 

Incremental changes reap rewards: exercise, relaxation, and sleep all factor into recovery. We start with small steps and continue to work towards your goals. For you and for us, patience matters. Your therapist can be your guide and partner on your journey to improved function and comfort. 

Pain research is new. Many practitioners working in health care don’t receive the training they need to assess and treat chronic pain effectively. Thankfully, this is starting to change. ALTA therapists are educated in Pain Science. And the more we understand and can share with you, the better you will be at getting your pain under control. 

Breaking the pain cycle is not 

easy, but you can do it. With our

support you can return to a life 

where you feel and function better 

once again. 

Leaving the Dark Ages . . . 

We are ramping up our efforts to share the latest news in health and wellness from the Physical Therapy world and beyond. You can now follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Thank you to our very hip social media gurus – Derya and Erin – for helping get our social media game on. We are excited!


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