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The Active Person’s Answer to Living Life Pain Free

hip problems

By Abbey Fecher, DPT

A lot of times when we feel pain, we immediately try to be our own doctor and figure out what to do for that pain. Sound familiar? Maybe you take some Tylenol or use an ice back on that sore muscle or maybe you just try stretching for a bit. It makes sense to try and find the fix. Life is busy between work, kids’ schedules, maybe you have vacation or race coming up and you want to be able to enjoy it without pain. But, in order to really figure out what to do for our pain, we have to figure out what is causing it.

Let’s start with the basics. What is pain?

In the medical field, pain is your body’s natural warning system. In medicine, it relates to a sensation that something hurts and it a vital function of the human body where receptors in the body respond to abnormal stimuli and alert the brain.

There are 5 types of pain and no, they don’t include ‘bad,’ ‘worse,’ and ‘unbearable.’

  1. Somatic pain: This is also known as musculoskeletal pain. It’s felt on the skin, muscle, joint, bone or ligament and is your body’s sensitivity to temperature, vibration, stretch or inflammation. Somatic pain is commonly sharp and well-localized and it tends to get worse with movement and touch.
  2. Visceral pain: This kind of pain is felt is your organs. It’s sensitive to inflammation, stretch and decreased blood flow. Visceral pain can be difficult to localize and can actually manifest itself as a deep ache or cramping sensation and can also occur in the lower back.
  3. Nerve pain: This kind of pain comes from the nervous system and can be caused by nerve degeneration, a pinched nerve, disc herniation that results in inflammation or even an infection like shingles. When a nerve is injured, the signaling system in your body gets jumbled and your brain interprets that as pain. These abnormal signals can also cause a pins and needles sensation, hypersensitivity to temperature, vibration and touch.
  4. Sympathetic pain: This is pain generally occurs after a fracture or injury to soft tissue and will cause the skin and area around the injury to be very hypersensitive causing lack of mobility. This kind of pain can also lead to muscle weakness and osteoporosis.
  5. Referred pain: This pain is felt next to or at a distance from the original site of injury. An example of this would be when someone feels arm pain during a heart attack.

So what type of pain have you felt in the past 24 hours? Now that you can better define the type of pain you might be feeling, let’s figure out what might have caused it. Determining the cause will help you figure out the best way to reduce that pain.

Common causes of pain

  1. Inflammation – while this reaction has a negative connotation, like pain, inflammation is not an ‘all bad’ thing. This is actually your body’s attempt at self-protection and enables the body to remove harmful stimuli so your body can begin the healing process. There are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic.

Acute inflammation: this happens quickly and is related to a specific incident. It also resolves quickly as the body sends cells to the area to help restore and repair the damaged tissue.

Chronic inflammation: this typically occurs from overuse and/or repetitive strain. It’s slow and progressive and the initial signs are less noticeable.

  1. Stiffness- this occurs in the joints and can be caused by inflammation, muscle or soft tissue restrictions, scar tissue and arthritis.
  2. Nerve irritation- this is usually caused by compression on a nerve and will alter the signal back to the brain and is interpreted as pain. This can cause feelings of pins and needles or tingling.

What can you do to address pain?

There are many things you can do to address pain but it’s important to remember that treatment is not ‘one size fits all.’ While stretching and foam rolling might work for one person, these methods won’t always work for another person because their pain is different, their initial injury was different and their pain tolerance is different. This is why you need to determine what caused your pain before you try to handle it. If you are dealing with pain or injury, the clinicians at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center can help you determine the cause and therefore the best treatment method.

CLICK HERE and we can help you schedule a FREE ASSESSMENT so you can start handling your pain!