Good morning, everyone! Dr. Glenn here with your Monday morning motivation. Today, we’re diving into a topic that is universally experienced yet often misunderstood – pain.
Pain as a Warning System
Pain, first and foremost, is the best warning system our bodies possess. Yet, paradoxically, it’s also one of the worst predictors of overall health. Many of us tend to use pain as a primary indicator of wellness, overlooking its function as a warning system.
What is Pain?
Before we delve deeper, let’s take a moment to understand what pain is. Contrary to popular belief, pain is not a purely physical phenomenon. It occurs entirely in the brain, making it more of a mental-emotional process than a physical one.
Though you might feel pain in your foot or knee, the sensation doesn’t originate there. It happens in your brain. To illustrate this, let’s consider an analogy.
The Tale of Two Twins
Imagine two twin girls, leading very different lives. One is active, always outdoors, playing soccer, helping her dad with yard work, and has had her fair share of injuries. Her sister prefers a quieter life, spending her days reading books, visiting coffee shops, and libraries, with no history of hospital visits or injuries.
Now, let’s say both these girls are involved in a car accident, sustaining identical whiplash injuries. Despite the same physical damage, their experiences of pain will be vastly different.
The active twin, accustomed to physical discomfort, may experience little to no pain. For her, this is nothing new. Her body and mind have experienced pain before, and they know how to handle it. This is known as a high pain threshold.
On the other hand, the book-loving twin, who has never experienced significant pain, may find herself debilitated by the injury. Her pain threshold is much lower due to her lack of previous painful experiences, making her perception of the injury more severe.
The Subjectivity of Pain
This analogy illustrates how pain is a highly subjective experience, influenced by our mental and emotional states. Two people can sustain identical injuries yet perceive and react to the pain differently based on their past experiences and pain threshold.
This subjectivity is why pain makes a poor indicator of health. Many factors can alter our experience of pain, including our life stories up until the point of injury. Therefore, while pain can alert us to potential issues in our bodies, it should not be the sole measure of our overall health or wellness.
Pain as a Warning Signal
While pain may not be the most reliable health indicator, it serves a crucial role as a warning signal. It alerts us when something is wrong, helping us avoid further harm. For instance, if you’re experiencing severe knee pain, it’s your body’s way of telling you to take it easy and not go for that 10k run.
That being said, I want to clarify that I’m not advocating for needless suffering. If you’re in extreme pain, it’s essential to manage it effectively. Chronic pain can lead to sleep disruption, increased inflammation, muscle spasms, and even depressive states. In such cases, it’s crucial to seek professional help and explore appropriate pain management strategies.
Let’s Continue the Conversation
As we navigate through our week, let’s remember that pain, while uncomfortable, is our body’s way of signalling that something needs attention. It’s an integral part of our body’s communication system but not the definitive measure of our health.
Wishing you all a week filled with health, wellness, and positivity. See you next Monday!