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Understanding the Components of Pain

Most of the time when we experience pain there are several factors... and I'm not referring to the anatomical / mechanical factors that cause pain. 

Rather, I am referring to the factors, events, stress, and overall health management that we experience daily. 

This is especially true of those suffering with chronic pain or if you have a nagging injury. 

Here is a common clinical picture I see:

1) People lack control in one or more aspects of their lives. Usually this comes from some sort of external pressure, typically work, that one cannot control. Most of us have projects to complete, deadlines to meet, productivity standards, etc. We cannot control this. It is just part of being a working adult. This could also occur from family or relationship stress. Perhaps, there is a recurring conflict in a relationship that you are having a hard time managing. 

2) This lack of control will eventually lead to stress. Stress is a part of life, we will all experience it. It's normal, but it's how you manage that stress that determines your response. Oftentimes we don't manage our stress appropriately. We don't address the root cause of it. We hide in the noise of other distractions or substances. As a result, our health suffers. 

3) We compromise our activity level and / or do not prioritize our own health and wellness. When life starts to get busy, where do your workouts / self care fall in line with your other responsibilities? I would argue that you should hold your health as the priority. Meaning, that even amongst the busiest of days, you find time to do something to take care of yourself. How many of us can relate to this picture? You finish a long work day, you have to rush to pick up your children, you get home - there are chores to be done, dinner to cook, you're tired. Amongst all of this, it can be hard to even think about doing something for yourself. 

4) Sleep is the next factor that gets compromised. This can be negatively impacted in several ways. For one, our stress can prevent us from getting quality sleep. We toss and turn worrying about tomorrow or reflecting on the day. Two, we are over stimulated. Instead of having a deregulation routine prior to bed, many of us are spending time in front of a screen. Or we over caffeinate ourselves late in the day and now we have a hard time falling asleep. Yet another factor, could be having alcohol before bed which has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns. In many cases in the combination of several of these factors. 

Now insert an injury somewhere in this cycle. All of the factors above will contribute to how you experience pain, how your tissues respond to the trauma, and your overall recovery time. Many times we get so caught up in trying to fix the injury by treating the site of the pain, when in reality, we need to step back and look at the whole picture. Stress management, activity level, and quality sleep cannot be overlooked when recovering from an injury.