Pain. That fun sensation you get hitting your elbow, stubbing your toe or forgetting that the stove was on. Pain has a lot of contributing factors – more than you might realize. Your environment, your memory, and of course your ‘injury’ type (whether a headache or broken arm) can affect the sensation and perception of pain. 

But what is pain? This is a really common question for a lot of people going through something painful. Let’s talk about what it means when we feel pain in a physical sense. To help explain this let’s use the case that you’ve just sprained your ankle. 

Pains something we feel there’s no doubt about it. But according to Lorimer Moseley who is a “Professor of Clinical Neurosciences & Foundation Chair in Physiotherapy, University of South Australia” (Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, 2021), pain is an illusion produced in the brain as a warning and sensory system for helping us navigate and stay safe in our day to day lives. That is not to say your pain isn’t real or bad, but just that sometimes its not the full story. Using our example of the sprained ankle, when you land and put your ankle out here’s what actually happens →

 Whats Happening?

When the nerve fibers are stimulated, a message is sent speeding to the spinal cord which then travels to the brain. This tells the brain something has just happened to your ankle. The brain then has to make a decision based on past events or its knowledge of what could be happening. This makes the brain triggers what it believes is an appropriate response, normally some form of pain. This all happens at 0.62m/s – only just a little bit quicker than Usain Bolt (haha). 

 So what?

This means that pain is just your brains interpretation of the signals, and depending upon your experiences, what it can do to stop this pain. So what does this mean about our pain? Well it means that the way we think of and work with pain is very different to what we previously thought. It means there’s a lot more we can do with our thoughts, beliefs about pain, our previous experiences. We can now look into how we can help the brain out of pain cycles. All this new research is providing new ways of helping treat pain and to work with pain.

Knowing what pain is and how it works in our bodies is a great way to help understand how we can reduce pain. Rather than just feeling pain and using medications this knowledge can help us reduce pain. This can ultimately help us here at Health Place work towards a more holistic way of  rehabilitation and recovery. If you would like to read more on this topic or listen to a speech, check out Lorimer Mosely – he has a lot of great resources →