Pain is a Defender, Not an Offender
Let’s face it, we all have anxiety. The intensities and levels might be different at any given moment, but we all experience it. Anxiety has many faces like fear, trepidation, nausea, uneasiness, and nervousness.
Pain brings about a fear that drives us nuts trying to avoid it at all costs. But here’s the reality of it, pain is a normal part of life and happens to all of us whether we like it or not (except if you’re one of the rare people that has congenital insensitivity to pain).
But imagine life without pain, how would we survive? Pain is a defender not an offender¹.
Pain isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it alerts and helps us survive. Imagine walking around on a broken foot and having no clue it’s broken. Pain, fear, anxiety, (fill in the blank) alerts us to take action. How amazing is that?!
But what happens when good fear turns into bad fear? When you decide it’s too dangerous to cross a busy street and never end up crossing another street again? This kind of fear is exaggerated. It stops you from taking any action, immobilizes you and keeps you stuck. Sorta like walking on a floor made of quicksand, the heavier the load the harder it is to move.
Pain is such a good defense mechanism that sometimes you can make too much pain, fear, anxiety, (fill in the blank).
When this happens, your brain, nerve, and immune cells become more efficient at pain and the danger messages get stronger, louder and more immobilizing.
Whenever there’s credible evidence of more danger than safety, you’re going to be protected. Pain is just one of many protective outputs. When threatened, the body is capable of recruiting multiple protective systems like immune, endocrine, cognitive, respiratory, emotional, neurological and you guessed it, pain. Sometimes just a few systems get overprotective and other times all these systems can be overprotective.
So what can you do?
First, start by loosening the grip on pain and let go of trying so hard to get rid of it. The harder you battle against your own body the more exhausted you’ll be and when you’re tired it slows healing. Realize that your body isn’t enemy #1 is key. It’s protecting you and you should take the time to listen.
Ask yourself, why does my brain feel like it needs to protect me? Dangers lurk in hard to find places so make sure you evaluate your entire life (things you do, things you say, things you believe and think, places you go, people in your life, things happening in your body).² Working with a healthcare provider that understands the importance of looking at the whole you and not just one part of you will help put recovery back on the table again.
Stop chasing pain and start living life.
Sicuteri F, et al. (1992) Preface, in Pain Versus Man, Sicuteri F, et al. Eds. Raven Press: New York.
Moseley GL & Butler DS (2015) The Explain Pain Handbook: Protectometer. Noigroup Publications: Adelaide.