Pain is complicated. What causes pain is also complicated. And since we help people in pain every day, we’ve made it our job to keep up on the latest research on pain. Did you know that you have better odds of calling a coin flip, than guessing if a tendon is or isn’t causing pain when a “partial tear” shows up on an MRI? Just because we can see it, does not mean it’s the problem. Only when we can corroborate our clinical exam with the MRI findings can we be more certain. And a complete clinical exam is always where we start.
We do know that all pain, regardless of severity, is an output of the brain. We are not saying it’s all in your head. All pain is very real – and we know that – but it is also important to understand how it works. When the brain perceives threat, it produces pain to protect us. If you sprain your ankle, the pain you feel keeps you from hurting your ankle even more. But once the tissue heals, the pain should stop, and sometimes it persists. Sometimes a hypervigilant brain will perceive normal touch as pain. And the pain may spread up or down from the originally painful sight, or sometimes it spreads to the opposite side of the body. These scenarios don’t mean the injury is spreading, they just mean the brain is becoming more sensitized to incoming information. The most frustrating part is that all of this is subconscious, and once you are aware of this process you can’t just turn it off. It takes conscious effort, professional guidance and time to work you through overcoming persistent pain. Pain is real – we are here to help.