Understanding Pain — 10 Questions

There’s no escaping pain – it’s an unavoidable fact of life in a physical body.

Understanding pain is another matter – it’s an important first step to finding the right treatment plan for lessening or eliminating our pain.

A Pain Quiz (adapted from an article in Web MD)

See if you can answer these 10 true/false statements without looking at the answers.

  1. Pain always means there’s something wrong.
Marcel Hernandez, ND
Marcel Hernandez, ND

Not so. Pain tells your brain to start interpreting a particular sensation. And because our brains and bodies are wired differently, we feel and tolerate pain in our own unique way.

Pain can serve as a warning system – telling us to take our hand off the hot plate, or to go to the ER. But pain isn’t always a cause for serious alarm. The burn in your muscles after a strenuous workout is an example of “good pain.”

  1. The most common pain is headaches.

Not true. There’s a very sound reason for the oft-given advice to “lift with your legs and not with your back” when picking up something heavy. Americans spend at least $50 billion annually on back pain relief, and eight out of ten people will have some form of back pain in their lives. Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45.

  1. “Growing pains” in children are real.

True. Doctors estimate that about 20% of children from age 2 to 12 have mild to severe pain in their legs at night.

Although these are commonly called “growing pains,” that’s a little misleading, since growth itself doesn’t hurt. The leg pain could be a sign of overused muscles or a developing neurological system. Some children who have these pains might also be more sensitive to pain.

  1. Changes in the weather can trigger pains in people with arthritis, asthma, and migraine.

True. Some people who suffer from migraines report that changes in the weather can bring on their headaches. The weather patterns that precipitate the headaches remain unclear. A study at Tufts University found that arthritis pain increased with every 10-degree drop in temperature, and that rising barometric pressure was another pain trigger. People with asthma may have attacks after a storm, because rain causes pollen grains to break into smaller pieces, which are easier to inhale.

  1. Women have a much higher pain threshold.

False. So much for the myth that women have a higher pain tolerance because their bodies are designed to give birth. Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine reviewed more than 160,000 pain scores for more than 72,000 adult patients and found that women reported more intense pain in many disease categories, including acute sinusitis. But the researchers couldn’t say for certain that men and women feel pain differently.

  1. Exercise can help reduce pain over time.

True. During exercise, the body releases endorphins, “pleasure chemicals” that help relieve the stress and depression that can accompany pain. Regular cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise strengthens the heart, lungs, bones, and muscles. Exercise can also help the elderly protect themselves against falls and bone fractures. Arthritis pain can be eased by walking, swimming, and other water-based exercises.

  1. The main reason we ice a sprain is to improve circulation in the area.

False. Ice packs numb the skin, decrease pain and spasms, and reduce swelling and inflammation. (Don’t use ice on an open wound, or burned or blistered skin.) Apply an ice pack to the area of the sprain for about 20 minutes several times a day, for the first two days.

  1. Arthritis pain only affects older people.

False. Arthritis is a general term for a group of conditions that includes osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis affects the musculoskeletal system – specifically the joints.

Joint problems caused by arthritis can result in pain, inflammation, and damage to cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s tissues. Some forms of arthritis can occur as early as infancy; others can affect young adults.

  1. Positive thinking can help reduce the brain’s perception of pain.

True. Researchers found that what people think can affect their pain: people who expect less pain may feel less pain. Intense feelings of love can also provide pain relief similar to the effects of painkillers, according to a Stanford study. Thinking positively can do more than just make you feel happier – it can be an important factor for managing chronic pain.

  1. Sleeping on a firm mattress can lessen back pain.

False. Despite the longstanding belief that a firm mattress is better for people with lower back pain, there isn’t much evidence to support this.

People who said they had back pain while lying in bed or getting up had less pain sleeping on a medium-firm mattress than a firmer one. The medium-firm mattresses may put less pressure on the shoulders and hips, allowing a more natural sleeping position (often a fetal position).

Source: Web MD

For more on Dr. Marcel’s work, click HERE.