By: Allison Hoestermann, PT, DPT
1. Pain is a direct signal from the brain. There is a roadmap from the brain to the affected tissue. Additionally, the degree of pain often depends on our perception of the danger of pain. The greater the perceived danger, the greater the signal from the brain to the tissue.
2. The degree of pain isn’t always reflective of the degree of injury. Everyone experiences differences in how their brain processes pain. Some people perceive and process pain with very strong coping mechanisms, and others find even the slightest scrape a potential threat. Helping children early on to cope with their cuts and cruises will help them with more serious injuries later in life.
3. A diagnostic test doesn’t always determine the cause of injury. MRI’s, X Rays, and CT scans are often used as a first line of diagnosis. However, there are times when the results tell us very little about the pain. For example, a study was performed on people 60 years or older with NO symptoms of low back pain. Despite the lack of pain, 36% had a herniated disc, 21% had spinal stenosis and 90% had a bulging disc.
4. “I have a high pain tolerance.” There is no accurate way of knowing whether or not you have a high pain tolerance. Often times, stating that fact is a coping mechanism for handling the perception of pain.
5. Psychological factors such as depression increase pain. A recent study in the Journal of Pain showed that an individual’s depression or anxiety level before total knee replacement had a direct effect on the patient’s long term pain post operatively. The happier a patient is, the greater chances of reduction of pain.