Total Health

What are the short and long term implications of pain?

January 12th, 2021 by
Category: Pain

Are you in pain? Well, I know I am, but that’s because I went to the gym yesterday!

This is a simple example of how some pain is normal and expected, while some pain can be because of an underlying problem. Back pain, for example, is not normal or expected. So, how can we tell when pain is not to be concerned about and will go away on its own? If the pain is not going away on its own, are there any possible consequences of doing nothing and leaving it as it is?

Factors to consider when determining if pain is normal or not

There are many factors to consider when figuring out if pain is normal or not. Here’s just a few of the questions we might ask as Chiropractors to determine this –

  • Where is the pain located?
  • What brought the pain on in the first place?
  • Is the pain progressively getting worse?
  • What type of pain is it?
  • How long has the pain been there?

What are the implications of leaving pain alone and doing nothing?

woman sitting at desk, slouching over her work

Let’s go through an example to work out if there may be implications for leaving pain alone.

You’ve been sitting at work for 8 years now. It used to be completely fine to do this – you were 28 when you started that job and having a younger, stronger spine meant you could cope with the stiffness. As the years went on, the stiffness progressively became worse. Now it’s at a point where an hour into work you get a persistent and frustrating ache in the lowest part of your back, right above your pelvis. You’ve tried massaging it yourself – even tried laying on a tennis ball to try to relieve it – but the ache keeps coming back the more you stay sitting.

What might be the problem with leaving the pain alone and just putting up with it?

There are a number of things that may be causing the problem – 

Because of this, leaving the pain alone may result in these problems worsening. The other implication of leaving persistent pain alone is the possibility of it becoming chronic. 

What is chronic pain?

Put simply, chronic pain means long term pain. Chronic pain can happen for many reasons, a couple of those including – 

  • Worsening of whichever condition that is causing the pain in the first place, such as degenerative arthritis. 
  • ‘Central sensitisation’ – this simply means that the body is so used to feeling the pain that it assumes that the pain is always there no matter if there’s an injury or not. This can be compared to learning to play the guitar. After practicing the guitar for years, your brain and nervous system adapt to make playing the guitar more automatic. If your body continuously feels pain from your low back for years, it learns that ‘the pain is always there’, and activates the pain pathways much more easily. 

Once chronic pain occurs, it can be much more difficult to get the pain to go away. Sometimes gentle resistance exercises may help with pain, however if your posture or the way you move puts too much stress on certain parts of the body, resistance exercises can cause more pain. This is why I often recommend correcting your posture and achieving correct exercise form before attempting more strenuous exercises.

To sum this up, the best way to avoid chronic pain and the worsening of conditions is to seek help from a qualified health professional sooner rather than later. The difference in how much easier it usually is to help pain which hasn’t been an issue for a long time vs pain that’s been going on for years is huge! If you have a regular health professional such as a Chiropractor, Osteopath or Physiotherapist, it is advisable to book an appointment with them to discuss the pain you are experiencing and form a plan to manage it.

By Dr. Beau Kenihan (Chiropractor)


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