Pain: Understanding your friend
Yes, pain is a friend. This statement may alarm you; but there is no bigger truth.
You are in pain because there is something wrong in your body which needs attention and correction. Pain is the emergency alarm that your brain sounds for corrective measures and action. Just as you describe someone as a ‘pain in the neck’, the corrective action for which is to eliminate that person from your life, the same holds true for your physical pain too.
If any remedial action needs to be taken to alleviate pain, we must first understand the pain and classify it accordingly, as no pain is the same.
Since this is not a medical page, we will keep it simple and in layman’s terms.
1) One type of pain is a sudden onset which is sharp, extremely painful and requires immediate action, as continuing to experience this type of pain may lead to long term injuries or even death. This pain is caused by immediate damage or harm to the external receptors in your skin. Some examples of this pain are, accidentally touching a hot iron, touching something extremely cold, breaking a bone, hurting your nose or your elbow, etc. This pain needs instant remedial action and then a recovery period till the body heals.
2) The next kind of pain is what we normally term as aches. These are largely caused by over exercising your muscles on an irregular basis. An example here would be a sedentary person suddenly playing football one day; the next day the body will ache. These aches are also caused by exercising the muscles that were not exercised for a very long period. An example here would be a person who has never been to a gym before and decides to do a full body circuit of weight training. Aches are typically classified in to 2 types: 1. Micro-traumas, where the onset of the ache takes place within and hour of activity and vanishes rapidly too. 2. Macro-traumas, when the onset of ache could actually take up to 24 hours or more and the aches could last for over 2-3 days. In almost all cases, adequate rest and icing the achy areas alleviates the ache.
3) The next classification of pain is Chronic Pain. This pain may be caused by several factors – Arthritis, sports injuries, chronic ailments (for example migraines), pain caused by chemotherapy, etc.
Once the cause for the pain is identified, treatment and therapy can be prescribed accordingly. The biggest harm that you can do to your body is to not address the cause of the pain and try and suppress it with pain killers. Pain killers, besides being extremely harmful for your kidneys and liver (with prolonged use), can also mask the reason for the pain and one may therefore never get to the root of the problem. A classic example is popping pain killers when you have a toothache rather than going to the dentist and addressing the problem permanently. What is truly amazing is that a visit to a doctor, to address or even know the cause of the pain, is so terrifying to people, that they go through months and years of their lives living with the chronic pain and probably doing irrevocable damage to that particular part or parts of their body.
Acute and severe pain caused by damage to the receptors of your body surface, can and should be treated instantly with first aid, medication, pain killers or other relevant emergency medical procedures.
Aches generally go away on their own after sometime, or by icing the area. If the ache is caused during exercise, it should ideally go away with active stretching.
Chronic pains need to be identified and categorized. Often, where all medical procedures may have proven to be inadequate, therapy can provide permanent relief.
Having identified the cause of pain, we move to the next step. This is where exercise therapy comes in.
Any medical issue must pass through the phases of:
2. Treatment or control
5. Prevention of recurrence
Exercise therapy plays a huge role in the first, third, fourth and fifth phases. Here exercise therapy or pain management can provide long term benefits.
About the author: Jeet Chowhan is a fitness trainer and Specialist in Exercise Therapy based in Mumbai, India. He is certified as an instructor from International Sport Science Association in fitness and nutrition, and strengthening of lower back muscles. He offers exercise therapy, gait and posture analysis and correction, advice on supplements, chronic pain management, and much more.
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