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There has been a lot of research over the past 10 years or so about what is actually going on when we are in pain. Some of what has been discovered makes sense for all of us, but some is really challenging.
This knowledge and the implications for people suffering from severe and long-term (chronic) pain is one of my passions. A great benefit of the recent explosion in science is that we now know that learning about pain can be really helpful for people living with it. Pain isn't simple and it doesn't have to rule your life, even if you have a longstanding problem.
There are some really useful pieces of information on the internet, which I will add links to at the end of this artilcle, but check out some of these amazing facts and why they could be relevant to you.
People can have pain when they don't even have the part of their body that hurts
Many people who have lost a limb, whether through trauma, or for medically needed amputation, have pain in the missing limb, or, at least, where the limb used to be.
Of course, there is no nerve message coming from the limb. There is no injury to the limb anymore, so clearly, neither of these is necessary for a person to have pain!
People can have severe injuries and experience no pain
There are frequent reports from war zones in which soldiers who have severe injuries refuse pain medications, because they don't have any pain.
My grandfather was one of these, he was shot in the hip in the first world war. The bullet smashed his femur and he had to crawl about 400m through a battlefield to get help. He kept a diary all his life, and the only discomfort he reported on that day was thirst!
Here's an amazing one.....you can have someone else's pain!
I love pain stories.
Recently I was discussing strange pain stories with a patient. She told me that her faher was in the army and posted in New Guinea. This was around the time of the second world war, so communication was not what it is now. His wife went into labour back in Australia and, unfortunately, the baby was still born. The amazing thing is that the father had a sudden and unexplained episode of abdominal pain and cramping at exactly the same time. His pains stopped just as suddenly and there was no medical explanation found.
He didn't even know his wife was in labour! There is a recognised phenomenon called Courvarde's Syndrome, in which the father experiences labour pains, but I had never heard of it happening over such a distance.
Closer to home....x-rays and pain
I often see people (including myself) who have abnormalities showing up on x-rays or scans, but no pain. Or they come in with the pain and after treatment the pain is gone, but the scan or x-ray stays the same.
Most people with spinal pain have no likely explanation showing up on x-rays or scans.
So how can this knowledge help you?
If we know all these things are possible (and we know they are), they offer some hope for people in pain, because:
You can find out more from the below youtube clips.
If you need more help, our pain education and mindfulness programme might be able to help you, call or email for more information.
Pain, Is it all in your head? Professor Lorimer Moseley (about 45min).
Understanding pain in less than 5 minutes From the Hunter region Medicare Local. It is exactly what it says!
The drug cabinet in the brain David Butler, explains how the brain produces chemicals to reduce your pain and they are very powerful (about 10min).
David Butler and Lorier Mosely are pain pioneers and physiotherapists. They are also authors of the excellent book on the subject: Explain Pain
Walk everywhere that you possibly can. Ditch the car keys and walk to the shop or to meet your friends. Take in the scenery along the way and see what you are missing whilst behind the wheel of a car.
You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is.
~ Ellen Degeneres
Enjoy the education!
From the archives:
Ask questions for better results
Lowering high blood pressure
Bad health is not an accident