Tag Archives: injury

Types of Pain

“Is this supposed to hurt?”

It’s a question I’m sometimes asked in my bodywork practice (like this one), and find myself asking too in some scenarios. It’s such a huge part of human existence, and yet it seems to me that our education as a society in the realm of pain is pretty lacking. It’s an area that in my experience we could use a little more breadth, and a lot more depth, in our understanding.

Just turn on the TV, right? The quest to rid ourselves of pain is an enormous, multi-gagillion dollar industry. The message is fairly basic and clear: “You’re in pain. Pain sucks. Take this and you won’t be. That’s way better.”

And, of course, yeah it’s better! Anyone among us save the masochists don’t want to endure suffering for its own sake (and even them, I’d venture; truly for its own sake? I doubt it). So it’s certainly not my intent to say we should be taking some sort of high road with this, or like seeking to end our pain doesn’t make sense; it makes about as much basic sense as basic sense gets.

That said, the idea that our pain may be telling us something vital is not a new one. So … what’s it saying?

I think some more words for pain and its many forms would be useful. This expansion of breadth of ground covered, similar to the notion that the native Eskimo have so many more words for what we usually just call “snow.”

I’d like to propose a partial list here. If you have anything to add, please add to the comment section below. Thanks to Tom Myers for his interview with Massage and Bodywork for the inspiration for this inquiry.

– the dull pain of lack of sensation (i.e. numbness)

– the quick pain of a new injury being prodded, like trying to walk on a sprained ankle

– the burning pain of an old injury being uncovered (in the physical body, this might be having deep work done on old scar tissue; in the emotional body, this might be seeing a lover from years past with someone else for the first time)

(quick note: I think it’s the difference between those last two that is one of the most important distinctions we can make as therapists working with clients, equally in our understanding and that our clients get the feeling of ‘oh wow, that pain isn’t coming from this work, but this work is uncovering the pain that was already there, stuck’)

– the pain imposed from the outside, that wasn’t there before (garden variety trauma, like you threw a rock and it hit my leg)

– the scouring pain of loss, of something that was psychologically “mine”

– the kind of sweet pain of coming clean, the fire when we tell the truth after lying to ourselves or others for any period of time

– the immediate and searing pain of torn myofascial tissue, or a broken bone, similar to that imposed from outside only its clearly and entirely contained within your skin

– chronic, lingering, in-the-background pain, like with autoimmune diseases or cancer (this is the only one on this list I haven’t experienced first-hand, so if you can educate me more about this, please do)

That’s it for now. Not quite like the 40 words I’ve heard the Eskimo have, but … it’s a start. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Orthotics: Help or Harm?

Interesting article in the NY Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/health/nutrition/18best.html

Orthotics changed my life when I was 14, from a daily routine of pain whenever I stood to no pain whatsoever in my feet. One day, out of high school, I quietly set them in my closet and never looked back …

Is Ida Rolf’s 10-series too formulaic?

A great question that I’ve wondered many times, answered is his latest blog post by Tom Myers here : http://www.anatomytrains.com/blogs/tom-myers

(As a quick refresher: Ida Rolf’s 10-series is the foundation, if not the protocol, of the school of bodywork called structural integration. SI works with the body’s 3D shape through the fascial network—the all-pervasive connective tissue covering literally everything in the body.)

‘good’ pain vs ‘stop that’ pain

Jeremy asks, “How do we tell the difference between the pain of injury, and the pain of correcting an injury in the context of exercise and rehabilitation?”

A fine question, good sir.

In my experience, there are a few key concepts to help guide us.

1. Change usually carries some kind of discomfort with it. Not always, but often … you know this already, as it’s what you point towards when you talk about ‘pain of correcting an injury.’

2. Correcting an injury is often a series of well-planned micro-injuries. An example of this is unfreezing a ‘frozen shoulder,’ or rehabilitating an broken-then-casted ankle, or even just working out. We’re often micro-tearing the soft tissue (muscles and connective tissue), re-aligning it, and bringing in just enough inflammation that our body ‘sees’ this area again and brings nutrition, and even better neurological pathways.

Too much of this micro-injuring and we’ve re-injured ourselves. Think of running stairs for an hour off the couch … too much too soon (for most of us, anyway). It takes forever to recover, much more time than it would’ve taken to, say, split that workout up into two sessions over a few days.

3. Pain, even a pleasurable sensation of stretching, does not necessarily equal rehab. As in, you could spend plenty of time stretching out the ligaments in your otherwise-healthy and normal-ROM ankle, and it would have that rehab-stretch kind of pain feel, but would certainly do you no good. You would increase mobility in an area that doesn’t need it, which would actually increase risk of injury like a sprain.

In other words, whatever exercises you’re doing should be intelligent ones, corrections that make sense and not just shots in the dark.

4. In general, any sudden or sharp pain means ‘stop doing that.’

5. You’re the best one to understand your own body in a subjective way.

Put all those together and I think you’ve got this: Correcting an injury should should be part of a well-thought-out process, and happen within the limits of what your body can effectively deal with. Just enough so there’s an increasing range of motion or fiber re-alignment or whatever … not so much that your body’s inflammatory response brings you back two steps. If you’re not recovered from whatever kind of workout in a few days, it was probably too much.

That’s my take … keep me posted!

And, to anyone else reading this, I’d love your two cents.