Pain is as much physical as it is mental. Consider these questions:
Pain is indeed an indicator of tissue damage; however, most tissue types take about four weeks to six months to heal. So, the real question is, why do some of us continue to feel pain for so long after the initial injury? The answer – we catastrophize! We think about the pain which means that we become fearful of any movement that we believe may make the condition worse. This leads to something known as “somatization disorder” – this means that the physical symptoms that we experience may not necessarily be caused by tissue damage in our body.1
“A builder, aged 29, came to the accident and emergency department having jumped down on to a 15 cm nail. As the smallest movement of the nail was painful he was sedated with fentanyl and midazolam. The nail was then pulled out from below. When his boot was removed a miraculous cure appeared to have taken place. Despite entering proximal to the steel toecap the nail had penetrated between the toes: the foot was entirely uninjured.”2 The brain is a remarkable thing – the builder was in so much pain when he thought the nail had penetrated through his foot, but as soon as he realized that the nail did not pierce through anything, the pain was instantly gone.
Don’t let your perceived level of pain prevent you from moving! Studies show that remaining active is a vital part of your recovery3, so teach your brain that movement is good and that you CAN still perform the activities you love doing. There is a common misconception that moving through the pain will cause further damage, but that’s simply not true. It is a gradual process that takes time and attention from a physical therapist, but being active will have a positive effect on your recovery!
1. Louw A, Diener I, Butler DS, Puentedura EJ. The Effect of Neuroscience Education on Pain, Disability, Anxiety, and Stress in Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2011;92(12):2041-2056.
2. Fisher JP, Hassan DT, Connor NO. Minerva. BMJ. 1995;310(6971):70.
3. Searle A, Spink M, Ho A, Chuter V. Exercise interventions for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clin Rehabil. 2015;29(12):1155-1167.