Much more than just a bothersome discomfort, pain is a necessary evil. Pain is a genuine smoke alarm; it protects us by informing us of an injury or potential for injury. According to ISAP (The International Association for the Study of Pain); "Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience, related to actual or potential tissue damage, and can be considered like an injury or a lesion.”
Different types of receptors are present in the body to receive information from the outside world (receptors for temperature, pressure, stretching, chemical changes...). These receptors send a sensory message to the brain and the latter reacts via motor impulse which provokes a withdrawal reflex (an involuntary rapid movement, as when withdrawing your hand from a fire) or a change in body position.
The causes of pain:
Pain can be caused by any trauma such as a direct blow, sprain, wound, burn, disease or irritation of a nerve. Following this trauma, the body will go into protective mode creating muscle and soft tissue spasms around the aggravated area to help prevent further injury. It will also initiate the healing process. The human body is capable of healing itself. As soon as a lesion or injury is detected, the immune system creates cellular agents and sends them to the affected area to clean, disinfect, and rebuild the injured tissue.
Severe low back pain felt following a false movement, for example, is useful on several levels. First, it allows us to realize that there is a problem. The intense pain causes the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin) surrounding the low back to spasm and swell preventing us from being able to move. This protective mechanism, caused by the inflammatory process, aims to restrict movement to bring us to rest so that we can recover.
The initial inflammatory response may last up to 72 hours depending on the severity of the injury. The perceived intensity of pain is specific and varies depending on people's personality, culture, mood, stress levels and well-being. Knowing that inflammation is necessary to start the healing process, we may wonder if the quest to eliminate it quickly is ideal. The first reaction is to try to block the sensation of pain by taking muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medication and applying ice.
It should be noted that the goal when taking these types of medication should not be simply to mask the pain sensation so that we can continue daily activities, sports or the repetitive movement that caused the problem. We firmly believe that controlling pain should be first and foremost to provide comfort while waiting to identify and address the underlying cause of the problem. One must be careful not to “band-aid” a wound to let us continue daily activities.
Protective spasm caused by the trauma will continue so long as the pain is present. If pain is present for two to three weeks, the protective mechanisms will last two to three weeks. When the protective mechanism lasts a long time, the nervous system adapts by altering the programming of soft tissue. Thus, the soft tissue can no longer meet its full flexibility. The reprogramming of soft tissue has them operate at a shorter length. If the fibres are shorter, the risk of becoming prisoner to the vicious circle of chronic pain becomes imminent.
If the muscles holding the shoulder joint together are shorter than they should be, for example, the risks of the shoulder joint rubbing and causing irritation increases. In addition, the nervous system becomes hypersensitive, which means that even the smallest irritant may cause a significant protective response.
Sports Kinesitherapist and Director of Centre Kinesis
Practitioner in Osteopathy, Sports massage therapist and director of Centre Kinesis