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Pain : The Warning System

Today I thought I'd chat about one of the main factors that drives someone to seek physiotherapy care.. pain! Pain is something that the majority of us have experienced at one point or another throughout our lives, but what IS pain ???

Pain is a warning system that can be influenced by a multitude of factors. It tells us that we need to take action and potentially change something we’re doing to protect our wellbeing. Think of pain like a fire alarm. If I burn my food (which happens more often than I’d like to admit) and my house gets really smoky, my fire alarm will go off. My alarm going off doesn’t necessarily mean there’s fire (or tissue damage), but it does alert me to take appropriate action.  

Sometimes our pain systems can become overly protective, and easily stimulated. This typically comes into play with persistent pain, or pain that has lasted for greater than three months. 

Below is the new definition of pain that has been put out by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). This is the first time it has been revised since 1979 👀 !! 

Pain is “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage”. 

The IASP expanded on the definition with six key notes to bring further context: 

“Pain is always a personal experience that is influenced to varying degrees by biological, psychological, and social factors.

Pain and nociception are different phenomena. Pain cannot be inferred solely from activity in sensory neurons.

Through their life experiences, individuals learn the concept of pain.

A person’s report of an experience as pain should be respected.

Although pain usually serves an adaptive role, it may have adverse effects on function and social and psychological well-being.

Verbal description is only one of several behaviours to express pain; inability to communicate does not negate the possibility that a human or a nonhuman animal experiences pain.”

The important thing to remember is that pain is multifactorial. So many things can impact what we experience, there usually isn't a one size fits all fix when it comes to pain.






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