Pain – It’s Tricky

“ . . Pain is a conscious experience created by the brain, not a damaged condition of the body. You can have one without the other. “

Backs – 52% of people with pain-free backs had at least one bulging disk or other MRI abnormality

Knees – 60% of people with pain-free knees, aged 20-68 showed abnormalities in at least three of the four regions of their knee

Shoulders – 23% of people with asymptomatic shoulders had a rotator cuff tear, leading the authors to conclude that many tears can be regarded as “normal” degenerative attrition, not necessarily causing pain and functional impairment.

—Todd Hargrave, A Guide to Better Movement

Our body’s pain mechanism can almost seem counter-intuitive. 

Here’s a primer—

Pain is an output from the brain. That irritated tendon is not speaking to you directly. Your brain interprets the signals it’s getting from stressed tissue and decides what it needs to tell you. 

At first it may be mild discomfort. If the tissue remains stressed and moves on to becoming damaged, the pain signal becomes much louder.

It looks like this—

Stressed tissue –> Distress signal to brain–> Brain creates pain to warn you of potential damage

One of the main reasons our tissue is stressed is because we’ve lost coordination and refinement in how we’ve moved. When all of our moving parts don’t share the “work” (in the physics sense) of movement, parts of our moving body become stressed and our brains sense potential damage. 

Pain is not an inevitable result of aging.

There is science and a method to moving ourselves out of pain. It’s different than a “stretch and strengthen” regimen. The effective approach is one that is personal to you, that you participate in creating.

That is the best news going!

Whatever your choices for emerging from pain and injury, please know that there is much more to your story than conclusions drawn from a medical image.

When you know more about how pain is created, you can make informed choices, develop reasonable expectations and go about creating a better movement life (and therefore, a better life). You can exceed the limits that someone else may have set for you.

By becoming an educated, self-aware mover, you can dare to have hope.

I’d love to hear about your journey with chronic pain and answer any questions you may have.