Working as health care professional, I see people in pain every day. Despite advances in medicine and science, pain levels continue to rise, with 1 in 5 Australians suffering from chronic pain. Poor education about it contributes to ongoing symptoms, so here are 3 things you need to know:
Pain, tissue damage and pathology do not always correlate
Too often people get radiographic imaging and are instantly under the impression that the findings on the report are the reason behind their pain. For some patients imaging can provide evidence of a significant underlying pathology that can explain their pain and guide further treatment. However, in a large percentage of patients, imaging has no or little correlation with clinical findings and can provide a ‘red herring’. Studies have found that up to 30% of asymptomatic adults will present with disc herniation on MRI. It is essential to find a correlation between symptoms and imaging results to consider the results significant.
Pain is from the brain
It doesn’t exist until the brain tells us it does. The brain protects itself from danger. Any situation your brain perceives as harmful will increase your likelihood of pain. However, the amount of tissue damage doesn’t always correlate with the amount of pain experienced. For example, have you ever got a big bruise but can’t remember how you got it? But then you get a tiny paper cut and it hurts a great deal. This is what makes pain so complex!
Perception of pain influences your experience
It is important to remember everyone experiences and perceives pain differently. Some people claim to have a high pain threshold however there is no accurate way to measure and compare pain tolerance. Anxiety levels, past experience, culture and knowledge all influence perception of pain. This is important when considering how much you understand and know about your pain. When someone has a better knowledge of their pain, they can develop effective coping strategies compared to those who don’t understand their pain.