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The Pain Box

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

Pain is complex. Pain is a gift. Pain saves lives. Pain causes us to react without thinking.

Pain is not so helpful when it lingers despite the fact that tissues have been healed and it is in fact, safe to move. For every 10 people, 1-2 people will continue to experience important pain even though they are injury free.... so rather than making these people feel crazy for being in pain, we MUST LOOK FURTHER.

We tend to associate pain automatically with physical damage, but in fact it is not a 1:1 relationship. Ongoing pain in your knee? Must be the arthritis. Persistent pain in our lower back? Must be a disc. We have been taught this way of thinking and it is ingrained in us. Pain science is evolving because it has to, it is no longer black and white and the discoveries to date are fascinating.

Get this... the story we attach to our pain and / the emotions that arise when you feel the pain, have the same impact on our experience (if not more) as the physical damage. The more we repeat these attachments, the better we get at experiencing our pain.

Wait, what? Read the above in bold once again, and let that sink in.

Henry bends down, feels intense pain in his lower back. "Oh F***, there it is again, its been 6 months of this, I can't catch a break, how the F am I supposed to find work with this injury, how am I going to play hockey if I can't even bend down to pick something off the floor"... This is Henry's story. His story, the cognitive component, is fueling the pain more than the physical sensations.

Clara gets into her car and her knee is throbbing. Its been 9 months and she has stopped all activity, she is so mad. She is angry and frustrated. Why her? Why is she stuck with this stupid knee? She is anxious that she wont ever be able to get back to cycling which was her escape. Cycling kept her mental health in check, how is she supposed to go on if she can't cycle?! These are Clara's emotions. Her emotions are fueling the pain more than the physical sensations.

With chronic pain, the story and/ the emotions that are attached to the experience every time we feel the pain are SUPER IMPORTANT.

Let's get curious.

If you are experiencing pain for a long time now, and it seems to be getting worse not better, if movements are starting to hurt that didn't used to hurt, I encourage you to get take a peak inside your personal pain box. Rather than labelling all parts as "pain", maybe look further? I am confident that inside this box you will find some insight.

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