Did you know that there is no such thing as pain in your joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, immune system or anywhere? Pain is actually an output from the brain. We have special receptors in the tissue called nociceptors that pick up information such as temperature changes, chemical changes (ie. inflammatory cells), pressure and stretch. This information is then sent via special nerves to the brain to be processed. The brain then weighs the weight of the world at that moment and decides an appropriate response.
This is why we hear so many remarkable stories of people experiencing terrible injuries, even amputation and not feeling any pain. Everyone has heard the story of the surfer that loses a leg to a shark attack and reports that all they felt at the time was a ‘thud’. The story of the soldier who receives a bullet in the chest, but feels no pain till the battle is over. Why don’t these people feel any pain at the time of injury? It’s definitely severe enough to hurt isn’t it? In these cases the brain has decided that an output message of pain would not be in the best interest for survival.
Similarly, this can work in reverse. Why does a paper cut hurt so much? A paper cut at work hurts even more than a paper cut at home. A paper cut on a pianist’s finger will probably be even more painful again. Why? The context of injury plays a huge role in whether pain will be felt and at what severity. A pianist who uses their fingers to play music, thus providing an income, will probably feel more pain from a finger injury, then someone who does not use their hands as much.
The output of pain is never the same for two people, because no two people are the same. If the brain decides to output a pain experience in response to nociception (receptor) stimulation, it has not done this lightly. Every bit of previous knowledge, understanding, past experience, and emotion has been processed in an instant to ascertain whether to output a pain message or to ignore it.
So to summarise, ‘all pain experiences are normal and are an excellent (though unpleasant) response to what your body judges to be a threatening situation. Even if problems do exist in your joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, immune system or anywhere else, it won’t hurt if your brain thinks you are not in danger.
In exactly the same way, even if no problems whatsoever exist in your body tissues, nerves or immune system, it will hurt if your brain thinks you are in danger. It is as simple, and as difficult as that. This can be remarkably freeing’ (Butler, 2013).
By Lani Guskich, Elite Myotherapist