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What is Pain?

Author: Byward's Healthcare Team Date: December 5, 2017 Chiropractic, Massage, Sports, Wellness

Six Components Of Pain

byward chiropractic clinic + massage therapy centre what is pain blog post

Pain can be an uncomfortable feeling, but it is necessary.  It alerts us that something is wrong with our body.  It can range from a mild nuisance to debilitating.  Let’s talk about what pain is and how we can deal with it:

Fact: Pain Comes from Tissue Damage:  

This could be damage to a muscle, tendon, ligament, joint, bone etc.  Pains are like sirens going off in our bodies to say “There’s a problem!  Fix me! I’m hurt!  Stop doing what you are doing!” It’s often the last symptom to appear and the first to disappear. Pain sensation can vary from a dull ache to sharp, burning, stabbing, or ache, just to name a few.

How Our Bodies Perceive Pain:  

We have a specific type of nerve cell called a nociceptor which detects tissue damage.  These nerve cells, when activated send a signal via the spinal cord to the brain alerting you that there is a problem.  They are specialized to detect changes in temperature, pressure, or chemicals (i.e. internal changes as a result of infection).  Think about the time you put your hand on a hot stove and how quickly you moved your hand away.  It happens almost instantly.  That’s how fast your nervous system can communicate when it comes to pain.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain:  

Acute pain is that which occurs with a new injury.  It tends to be intense and short-lived.  It is your body’s way of letting you know there is tissue damage.  Your nervous system is typically stimulated into the “fight or flight” response. Treating the injury will typically resolve this type of pain. Chronic pain is felt for a longer period of time and is often recurrent in nature. It can be intermittent or constant and intensity can vary.  The “fight or flight” response is typically not present as your body has become accustomed to the pain stimulus.  In some cases, repeated episodes of acute pain can over stimulate your nerves and cause “wind up” resulting in chronic pain.  Your perceived pain level may be higher because of the repetitive overstimulation of the nerves.  Your body becomes hypersensitive to pain making symptoms last longer, be more intense, or appear quicker when an area of the body is injured or irritated.

Diagnosis Of Pain:  

Diagnosis of the cause of pain is determined by a combination of the patient health history and a physical examination.  As chiropractors, we will ask you about your current injury, previous injuries as well as your overall health and wellness.  From those answers, we will determine the best approach to take with your examination.  We will typically conduct muscular strength testing and deep tendon reflexes of the lower and upper extremity to ensure that the nerve communication to your extremities is functioning at its best.  We conduct orthopedic testing to determine which joint, muscle or tendon may be affected.  If X-Rays are required, we will do those at the time of the initial exam.  X-Rays provide us valuable information on your structural alignment and the health of your spine.  

Management And Treatment Of Pain:  

How you decide to manage your pain depends on the injury.  Chiropractic care and massage therapy can help!  Chiropractic care can help restore and improve your mobility.  Your chiropractor will be able to give you more individualized advice based on your area of concern. For tips, check out our blog posts “Health Hacks For Pain Relief” and “Ice Or Heat”.  

How Pain Can Affect Your Life:  

We have all been injured at one point or another.  In the short term, pain can put us on the sidelines long enough to rest and recover and seek care from your health care provider.  This can be frustrating and annoying in the short term, but most are comforted by the fact they will be back to doing what they love in no time. For minor injuries, this may mean just a few days or few weeks of being restricted from your normal routine.  

For injuries that are more severe or chronic in nature, the side effects on your mental health can be detrimental.  Feeling down, periods of depression or mood changes can be a challenge that comes along with chronic pain.  For some people, pain can also affect the amount or quality of sleep which has a negative effect on their mental and physical state over time.  If you or your loved one is struggling with these issues, talk to your healthcare provider.  Remember, being supportive of those going through a difficult time can make a big difference.


Chiropractors Role In Pain Management:

Chiropractors are currently part of the discussion at the federal table as part of the Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis.  The Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA) was invited to provide feedback on behalf of its member in the role non-invasive therapies can play in pain management. The new guidelines are in line with the CCA’s White Paper responding to Canada’s opioid crisis, A Better Approach to Pain Management.  Conservative care, such as chiropractic care, can help to alleviate mechanical joint dysfunction thereby reducing acute and chronic pain symptoms.  Chiropractors also recommend exercises to aid in pain reduction and muscle rehabilitation.  Chiropractic care can play an important role in the assessment, diagnosis, and management of pain related to musculoskeletal origins.


Pain is often seen as a very negative entity.  No one likes to experience it, but, we all do at one point or another.  Listening to your body’s warning signals instead of ignoring them, can reduce the time needed to heal and get your back to living your life to the fullest quicker.  


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