If you’re experiencing recurring pain, it may feel like you’ve tried everything and are still stuck at square one– in pain. You may be feeling hopeless and are left wondering, now what?
Reframing the way you’ve been conditioned to think about your pain can help you shift how you experience it, how you look to treat it, and ultimately lead you to a place with better results.
In this article, we look at what pain tells us about our bodies, how people can get stuck in these chronic pain patterns, what your next steps should be, and why it comes down to how your body reacts to stress rather than the stress itself.
Want to jump right to talking to someone about your unique situation and get to the root of your pain? Go ahead and book your free consultation with us today!
Why Do We Experience Pain & What Is It Trying To Tell Us?
P.A.I.N– Pay Attention Inside Now is a mechanism that lets us know that something is wrong or needs to be addressed. Pain is protective in nature and— as inconvenient and frustrating as it can be— is actually an important mechanism.
Our body doesn’t experience the sensation of pain unless there is something for our nervous system to react to.
- Sometimes, in the case of a fresh break or sprain, it’s reacting to a stimulus that is happening in the moment.
- Other times, an event or series of stimuli may be reminding your nervous system of a past injury, creating the same sensation you felt when that event occurred. It’s kindof like when you hear a song that takes you back to a memory. This stimulus allows to you re-experience the same emotions you felt when you first heard that song. The same can happen with pain.
There are two types of pain, acute and chronic pain.
Both are normal and helpful signals that aim to guide how we should respond to stressors in our lives. In both situations, pain is acting as a messenger and a signal to drive a change in activity, behaviour, belief, or perspective.
What is Acute Pain
Acute pain Is a normal response to abnormal stress in the short term. Think of sudden injuries on the sports field, car accidents, slips and falls, etc. Acute pain is generally present at the time of the injury and serves as a limiter to motion and a call for rest. This pain is typically sharp and intense.
Treatment for this pain usually involves supporting the body in its healing process by listening to it (i.e. restricting certain movements) so it can heal.
What is Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is an abnormal response to normal stress over a longer time frame. It’s when we experience pain from everyday activities. Activities that require repetitive movements but that should not cause pain.
Bodies experiencing chronic pain have most likely lost the ability to accurately interpret, integrate, and respond to stress in the current situation. Meaning they have gotten stuck in a high alert state or incorrect tension patterns and are struggling to heal themselves. This pain doesn’t necessarily mean that there is damaged or vulnerable/unstable tissue.
How Do People Get “Stuck” In Pain?
People get stuck in pain patterns when they lose their G.A.P– General Adaptive Potential. Their body has lost the ability to appropriately adapt/respond to normal stressors.
For example, experiencing ongoing neck or back pain can be debilitating. It can affect your work, sleep, and daily mood. Focusing on removing this pain seems like the logical healing path. However, people experiencing this recurring pain tend to misinterpret where/why they are in pain.
Chronic pain is usually a sign that something in the body is not working properly. It runs deeper than the neck or back pain itself. Treating the surface pain via pain killers or avoidance of certain activities may cause temporary loss of pain, but more often than not, the pain will come back. Often where we experience the pain, is not where the true problem lies.
Our Take: So You’re “Stuck” In Pain— What Should You Do Now?
Thinking about your pain differently than you’ve been conditioned to in the past can get you out of your pain cycle. You deserve more than temporary fixes.
“When you change the way you look at things… the things you look at change” Wayne Dyer
When in chronic pain, it’s hard to be creative, or start to think of unique solutions to our problems. Our decision to seek treatment and Fix. The. Pain. is one of the survival mindset.
We need to try to retrain this thinking so that we stop stopping at thoughts such as, “How can I fix this pain?”, and move to “What are my goals, are they get out of pain, or are they bigger?”.
It can be hard to shift this mindset, so finding people who can support you in your goals, who can help you measure your progress, or help you come up with different solutions can be key in changing this pain pattern.
Start Asking Yourself The Right Questions
When we are experiencing pain, all we want to do is make it stop. The quicker the fix, the better. We are in a fast-paced world and want fast-paced solutions.
But all too often we jump into solutions without actually identifying the actual problem. When you slow down and ask different questions about your pain, you will start seeing your pain differently.
You can start by asking yourself things like:
- What is my goal? Is it to just get out of pain, or is it bigger than that?
- What things have I tried to solve this problem? Is there another way? Do I know anyone who had a similar issue? What did they do?
- What is my expectation of how long it will take me to reach my goal?
Who can I lean on for support in reaching my goal?
As you answer these, ask yourself ‘Why’ to the five subsequent answers.
This can look like:
- What is my goal? To get out of pain.
- Why? Because I hate being in pain.
- Why? Because it’s impacting my day-to-day life.
- Why? Because I can’t sleep or focus anymore. (why is that important?)
- Why? Because I feel like that means I’m not as healthy as I should be
- Why? Because my health is important to me and who I am as a person
Your why is your key to healing.
Your why will impact your healing approach and journey.
If you have a health practitioner already, share these answers with your practitioner. These will help them determine if they can help you get to the root of the problem. Use your “whys” to make a plan to get you to a place of true healing.
Separate the Root Cause from the Symptoms
Treating symptoms of pain usually only offers a temporary fix. It’s important to look deeper into where the pain is coming from.
Your neck may be hurting, but you need to consider why it’s hurting. What else could be going on in the body to cause this? We can only heal when we fix the root cause of the pain. Maybe it’s the stress of sitting at a desk all day? maybe it’s your body saying you need to get more active? Maybe your neck pain is linked to an old injury somewhere else in the body?
Use Measurement to Find Solutions That Actually Work
It’s important to ensure that you’re measuring your progress with metrics that help you move forward. If you’re using the absence or presence of pain to indicate if something is working, you might be missing what else is happening in your body.
More pain in different areas of the body might actually indicate that the body is changing and working to resolve the core issues of the problem. No matter where you’re seeking treatment, make sure you’re tracking your progress with non-subjective measurement tools.
It’s Not The Stress That Matters, It’s How Your Body Reacts To The Stress That Matters
Stressors are all around us. They’re unavoidable. How your body perceives stress will impact your outcome and experience.
A healthy body uses stress to grow. The healthier we are, the more resilient we are to stress. An unhealthy body has lost its ability to appropriately respond to stress. It gets stuck in stress patterns and cannot heal itself.
At Launch Wellness, we look at how your body is adapting to stress. We work with you to help your body learn how to respond correctly so it can heal itself better.
Related: Reframing Health: What Does It Really Mean To Be Healthy
So, Could Your Body’s Response To Stress Be What’s Causing Your Pain?
When we lose the ability to respond appropriately to the stress in our lives (physically, mentally, etc.), our bodies can get out of balance, causing all sorts of issues, including pain.
How do you know if you’re out of balance? Well, you can start by taking our free stress adaptability test.