Pain, Is It All In Your Head?
July 10, 2014

Pain is a central aspect of physical therapy. Therapists spend a majority of the time designing plans of care to reduce, eliminate, or manage pain. We use modalities, manual therapy, and exercises to restore motion that has been affected by pain. One of the first questions by a therapist is “What is your pain rating today?” Patients describe pain with colorful adjectives such as throbbing, burning, and lightening strikes. But, what is pain, and why are therapists now teaching patients about it?
What is Pain?
Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional disorder. People report pain in daily conversation and even remark that they have high thresholds or low thresholds of pain. A 2003 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association put the cost of treating pain at $61.2 billion per year. Until recently, pain has been thought of as an input from the body, and that the brain is a secondary figure.
The sensation of pain is termed as an output from the brain. A good example is when a person steps on a tack with a bare foot, the sensation travels up to the brain and the brain determines if the information is worthy of a pain sensation. If worthy, the brain will activate the pain response that tells you there is a danger. Think of the pain sensation like a smoke detector, the detector senses smoke and determines if it should elicit a response. So, the brain is the guardian of danger.
How does Chronic Pain Change Things?
Chronic pain changes the landscape. Over time repeated pain responses will decrease the brain’s threshold of what should be painful. A stimuli, say drying your hand with a towel, may now be painful because of the brain’s perception of the stimuli. As the process continues even the thought of movement can illicit pain.
How can Physical Therapy Help?
Education of pain and the brain’s response is essential to understand and improve daily life. Numerous studies have shown that pain education along with exercise improves outcomes, and may be more successful than exercise alone. As physical therapy evolves, the conversation about pain must be a primary intervention to help patients recover.
At Makovicka Physical Therapy, we are using this education to help patients with acute, chronic, and even post-surgical pain. We pride ourselves on evolving as professionals to provide the best care.
For more great pain information check out this Ted Talk by Lorimer Moseley: “Why Things Hurt”

The Makovicka Difference

We are leaders in our profession, locally owned and operated by physical therapists who forge relationships with patients, and advocate for their care. All of our clinics have board-certified specialists on staff, meaning you get the highest level of care to maximize your recovery, and get you back to your game. We will listen, evaluate your symptoms, and create a personalized physical therapy program to meet your needs and improve your function, strength, and mobility.

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