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Pain Does Not Equal Harm

Invertabelt > User Blog > Pain Does Not Equal Harm
A common misconception among individuals is that if one experiences pain, harm or damage must be occurring structurally or at a tissue level.  This is simply not the case.  Pain operates as an alarm system in our body; it is not necessarily an indication that tissue damage has occurred.   Let’s look at this alarm system more closely.
The nerves in our body always run on a low grade resting electrical system.  As tissue is stimulated and or stressed, the electrical system in the nerves may increase its electrical levels.  If the stress is alleviated, it will return to the normal resting level.  If the stress continues or is amplified, then the electrical signal continues to rise.  If the electrical signal reaches the alarm threshold, then danger signals are sent to the brain, and brain may interpret these signals as pain.
So the above explanation concludes that when pain is experienced tissue damage occurs, right?!?!?!  Well, not exactly.  The body is a beautifully designed machine.  Take a look at the chart below.  We can see from the chart that tissue damage occurs well after pain is present.  The body is designed to experience pain prior to tissue damage.  This means that the alarmed is designed to alert the individual when potential damage is near but has not yet occurred.  Just as a car engine light will come on to warn one of potential problems with the engine, pain is designed to warn an individual that tissue is being over stressed.
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Why are these concepts important as our bodies are recovering?  Fear and anxiety increase the resting levels of our nervous system.  When our electrical systems resting levels are elevated we have less room for movement or activity before the alarm (pain) sounds.  Individuals began to associate different movements or activities with pain.

They also may misconstrue a pulling or stretch sensation as pain. They become fearful or anxious of these movements and when forced into them they have a much lower threshold and pain is elicited more quickly.  This can become a vicious cycle until the individual avoids the movement or activity all together.

The two Charts below illustrate normal resting electrical signal in the nervous system, versus I heightened or sensitive level.  Notice the decrease space to trigger a pain response.  This is hypersensitivity.
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Continual movement to a painful joint is healthy.  Only in extreme circumstances should immobilization or complete avoidance be practiced after an injury.  Pain should be respected but not feared.  A general rule is if pain is induced and lasts greater than 5-10 minutes, then you have done too much.  Some movements or motions that always elicit pain should be avoided for some time. Sometimes the tissues do need a small break, but movement should be initiated as soon as possible.
What is the take away message from this post?  Pain is an alarm and does not indicate damage.  Don’t be afraid of pain or other sensations such as stretching or pulling.  Don’t associate such sensations as stretching or pulling strictly with pain.  Movement and activity is healthy for stressed tissues unless pain persists for greater than 10 minutes after activity.

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