Pain Science in Practical Terms

chris sarro guelph rehab centre physiotherapy

As both our patients and clinicians know, pain can be a complicated and frustrating phenomenon. Pain can prevent us from doing the activities we want to do, interfere with our sleep, and generally put us in a worse mood. 

Pain always differs from patient to patient, whether it is in the intensity of pain, the type of pain patients experience (eg. Burning vs. Shooting pain; sharp vs dull pain, etc.), and how pain affects our daily lives. Due to the wide variety of pain, it is best to think of pain as an experience that is unique to every single individual. 

Pain is our body’s alarm system, and like any alarm system sometimes that alarm system can become hypersensitive or faulty, sounding the alarm even when there is no danger or tissue damage. That is not to say someone’s pain is not real, as anyone that suffers from chronic pain can tell you- their pain is very real; just like the blare of a home alarm system in the middle of the night is very real when someone forgets to properly input the disarm code. A key thing to keep in mind is that in both these instances, the presence of pain or of an alarm blaring does not necessarily indicate danger!

So why do we feel pain when there seems to be no reason for it? Over the years the one thing that is consistent with many studies is that various things contribute to our pain experience: tissue damage, poor sleep, emotions, stress, beliefs, the meaning of pain, and many more factors. Tissue damage is just one factor that contributes to pain, which again reinforces that the presence of pain does not necessarily indicate that tissue damage is occurring. 

Where does rehab therapy fit into this idea of pain as an experience? Physiotherapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists are musculoskeletal experts. Through the rehab process, these professionals will take you through manual therapy techniques, graded exercises, and the use of modalities to desensitize your body’s alarm system to ensure pain is not coming on when it doesn’t need to. Furthermore, sometimes pain should be avoided, and your rehab specialists will know when pain is to be avoided, and when we can work into some discomfort/pain. 

This concept of pain as an experience and as your body’s alarm system applies to various types of pain such as muscular pain, chronic pain, low back/neck pain, and headaches/migraines- all of which can be treated by our health team. Call us at (519) 265-7343 to speak with our team to learn more, or contact us by email.


Written by: Chris Sarro, Registered Physiotherapist, Physiotherapy Director

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.