What is pain?

It can be caused by many different things and how we perceive it can vary. Acute pain (that has been present for less than three months) is usually as a result of an injury. For example, if you twist your knee and stretch the ligaments it will hurt. As the ligaments heal this feeling will usually go and you will return to normal. We know that in the acute stages, physiotherapy can often help improve your recovery, and more importantly avoid any long term problems after your injury.

Alternatively, pain that has been present for over three months is more chronic. In most situations (but perhaps not all) anything that was damaged has now had the time to heal. Research has shown there are many things that can influence and cause these feelings to continue. It could be that you have changed how you move due to the original pain, which is now making it worse. It can also be affected by your sleep, stress, other health problems, beliefs, lack of flexibility, and many other factors.

Pain is really a protection mechanism. If you feel it, it’s a warning from your body. So, if you put your hand on something hot your brain perceives this as pain, and your instinct is to move it.

In chronic pain the protection mechanism can become too sensitive and the feeling can continue past the initial protection mechanism. For example, if you have acute back after lifting, research has shown that your brain becomes much more sensitive. If you try to lift something in future your brain will send alarm signals and you may well change how you move, which can cause other problems. As clinicains we need to assess this and often with chronic issues spend time changing your movement patterns. The links below explain this is more detail:

Why things hurt

Pain explained