What is pain?

What is pain?

Pain is the body’s natural response to any type of injury or harm to the body. For example, if you touch a hot stove, the pain is there to protect your body from a burn. This response is important in our everyday life. We would not be able to make it through our everyday lives without it and avoid painful actions such as holding onto hot pans or stepping onto sharp nails.

How does pain work?

Pain is a normal response to keep your body safe. It works by using the miles and miles of nerves in your body to send signals to your brain. If you step on a nail, your nerves will send a signal to your brain which will pull your foot off of the nail. Your foot will continue to communicate with your brain about the injury and how it hurts. In a “normal” pain response your foot will eventually start feeling better and you will forget that you stepped on the nail.

Why doesn’t my pain go away?

At times, pain response can be altered causing you to experience more pain or be more sensitive to movements or activities that you typically wouldn’t be. This heightened sensitivity to activities can be caused by many different factors such as stress, anxiety, fear, family concerns, and job issues, to name a few.

How do I get better?

Exercise and movement have been shown to help decrease this pain response. An example of this would be the “runners high” that many long distance runners experience during their run that allows them to keep running. While it is not required to exercise at this level to get the pain relief benefits, it is a great example. During your exercise session it is important to find the right balance between avoiding pain and causing pain. This is something that your physical therapist can help you with. As you continue exercising you will see that you are able to do more with less pain.

Written by:
Christopher Stull SPT
3rd Year DPT Student
Des Moines University

Louw, Adriaan. “Teaching People About Pain: Pain Neuroscience Education”. 2016. Presentation.

What is pain?

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