The Neighbourhood Clinic was established to provide excellence in healthcare to our local community. Part of that role we see is sharing important clinical and scientific messages. Pain is a condition that is rife in our society and there is so much misinformation about what it is and how it works that we thought this series may help to be part of the solution.
One of the challenges for people in pain is get their heads around the fact that pain is weird.
Bang your hand on the doorway as you're trying to get to work on time. Pain. Heaps of Pain. Stub your toe. Next level agony. But in both these cases you haven't broken/torn/damaged anything.
So why does it hurt so much?
Because pain is a best guess at risk/danger. It's a protective mechanism. When you stub your toe the assumption by your central nervous system is you may have broken something. To protect yourself your body makes that toe hurt a lot so you don't do further damage to it by walking on it.
What does a stubbed toe have to do with a bad back?
When you scratch your knee, it bleeds for a bit, then a scab forms and under the scab new skin is made.
When you tear a muscle or a ligament or a tendon the same thing happens. And so most things should heal within 3 months or so, sometimes with help from an osteo or an EP.
But a lot the time they don't.
Because that protective mechanism, the one that makes you hop after stubbing your toe, is also active in other injuries. If you've cooked your back really badly once your brain/body will be more worried about your back. It will take less damage to illicit a pain response than it would for someone who has never hurt their back.
How does this help you?
When you get an injury, remember that your body is amazing, and that under your skin cells are working away at fixing whatever was damaged.