Why Pain is Important
By Jason Robinet, MS Physical Therapist, Co–founder Robinet Physical Therapy
The Importance of Pain
Even though it gets a bad rap, pain is a very important sensation for healing and overall health. Pain is the body’s “dashboard light” when something is wrong. For Physical Therapists, pain indicates dysfunction because the sensation of pain is an effect of dysfunction.
Is pain real or imagined?
Pain is a sensation, just like the feeling of hot or cold, pressure or joint sensation. In most cases, pain is triggered by tissue trauma and its corresponding swelling. Chemicals are naturally released in response to the trauma and contain an irritant to the nerves that sense pain. That sends a signal to the brain that something is wrong. The brain neurologically shuts the area down, like shutting the breaker off to an area in the house when working on the electricity.
Why the body sends pain signals
Why would our brain do that? Simply as a protective mechanism to avoid further damage to the area.
If we couldn’t feel pain, the stone in our shoe would cause more and more damage because we wouldn’t be aware of the problem (a common issue for diabetics and those who have issues with peripheral neuropathy which causes the nerves to not work from issues related to nutritional deficits).
How Physical Therapy remedies pain
This is why PT’s frequently suggest not to “pre-load” with pain medication prior to an activity and give out “do’s and don’ts” for people during therapy. We want to help return the body to normal movements but not reproduce aggravation to the original issues.
PT and chronic pain
A physiological law, called Wolfe’s law, basically states the body will heal itself according to how it is used. PT’s work return to normal movement as soon as possible, allowing the body to heal itself appropriately and quickly. But during chronic issues, pain is most often caused by the body compensating for something not working appropriately. The body creates a compensatory pattern which can lead to overuse, irritation and pain.
Interestingly, the area of the body not working correctly typically isn’t the area that hurts. It is simply not working. A PT evaluation finds the area not working, correlates that to the area of pain and takes steps to get the body to start working correctly through various techniques.
Listen to body signals
Pain is an important sensation. Listen to your body when it is sending you distress signals. Simple conservative measures to change your actions, like light exercise to the area, and perhaps some over the counter medications to help the pain levels are a good first action. Pain should be considered more serious when it is sharp in nature, persistent, and progressive.
If you experience those more serious symptoms for more than 24 to 48 hours, seek medical attention either via your physician or physical therapist to seek out the extent of the problem. At RobinetPT, we offer no–cost consultations to determine if a PT solution is right for you. Fill out the form on this page and we’ll contact you to arrange a visit.
Jason Robinet, with his wife Barbara, is a founder of Robinet Physical Therapy. He specializes in manual orthopedic and sports-related rehabilitation and surgical recovery issues.