The why of pain. Weighing up the risk.

Got a niggle? Been struck down with an acute episode of pain? Or maybe you have had a recurrence of pain that keeps coming back?

You might be wondering "why do I have this?"

For some pains- its obvious! You fell over or maybe you twisted your leg funny. For other pains- its not so obvious.

In this post- you will learn:

  • Why your pain started or is persisting.

  • How to establish what puts you at risk of getting pain.

  • The difference between what is causing your pain and why you have it.

  • How to minimise high risk activities or habits that are creating your pain.

Let's get started.

From What to Why

I will be spending the next 5 minutes helping you to understand why you have your pain. This is a slightly different question to what is causing your pain.

Whats the difference? Quite a bit actually.

If you are wanting to know specifically what may be causing your pain rather than why you have it in the first place- then you may want to read these first (especially if you haven't been given a specific diagnosis or reason so far).

Pain- what is it anyway??

Specific or non specific- that is the question.

Happy to continue? Then let's move on.

Stating the obvious

It isn't hard to understand why you have pain in some instances. With something like breaking your leg- it is pretty easy to put 2 and 2 together.

You twisted your leg awkwardly and now your bone in your leg has broken. No rocket science here.

Then there are some less obvious (but still easy to understand) reasons. For example:

You have been bent over in the garden all day and wake up the next day with back pain.

You have been painting the ceiling and had your head extended all day. You start to get neck pain.

You have done something new in the gym and felt a twinge at the time. You wake up the next day and start to get niggles.

For the switched on amongst us- we can often "make the link" and we know why we have the pain we do.

But what do all these different pains that started have in common?

What if I was to tell you that there are universal laws that put you at risk of getting issues. Laws that underpin every example of what started a problem.

That would be good to know surely?

The answer to that is yes. Once you know the "code", you become empowered. You start to understand exactly why you have pain (no matter how unclear it seems) and can also minimise your risks in the future.

It can be split into 2 areas of "risk".

  1. Physical risks

  2. Psychological risks

1. Physical risks

When you break your leg or twist your ankle- this is a type of physical load. A very sudden load that takes your body past its physical limits and then it becomes injured.

But what about when injury isn't obvious?

What about when there were no sudden twists or forces?

How can physical factors explain why you have pain then?

Physical risks can be broken down into 3 subcategories.

1. Sudden loads

2. Repetitive/sustained loads

3. Heavy loads

1. Sudden load- "too much too soon"

This is when you do something new that the body isn't currently used to. You put a demand on the body over a short period of time that exceeds its tolerance.

Let's say that you decide to start running. Instead of working your way up gradually- you become overly ambitious and went for a 2 mile run straight off the bat. The last time you ran 2 miles was a few years ago when you were running regularly. So you wake up the next day and your hip begins to hurt. This is because there was too much of a jump!

If you have started to get pain and you are wondering why, cast your mind back to the time just before your pain started and think "Did I do too much too soon?".

Many people expect they can do more than what the body can actually tolerate. It is very common and might explain why you started to get pain.

2. Repetitive/sustained load-"too often, too long"

This is when you do something the same over and over again. You put a single demand on the body that accumulates over time.

Let's say that you have a job that requires the same movement over and over again. A bricklayer is a perfect example. You are constantly bending in the same direction over and over again with very little variation in what you do. You always pick up the bricks with the same hand and rotate in the same direction. Or you could be a dentist that is bent over inspecting peoples mouths for hours on end. The spine is constantly bent forward without rest over a prolonged period of time.

If you have started to get pain and you are wondering why, cast your mind back to the time when your pain started and think "Have I been doing lots of one thing?".

Once you think about this- it may be likely that you realise you have lacked some variation in your movement habits and might explain why your pain started.

3. Heavy load- "way too much"

This is when you have tried to shift something that weighs more than you can handle. This is a more obvious one when you feel pain straight after lifting something heavy but can be a trickier one to realise if the pain starts a little later than the heavy event.

Moving house is a common culprit for this sort of thing as there is often quite a few heavy objects that are lifted and are usually quite awkward lifts (for example- manoeuvring a fridge out of the house and into a van). The pain often starts fairly quickly but it can take a day or two for pain to really peak and you can forget that you were lifting fridges a few days previous!