How pain is actually good for you
By Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, D.C.
Something I do often with my patients is discuss pain. It’s one of the only things that when you get it, you can’t wait to rid yourself of it. But the unpleasantness of pain is the very thing that makes it so effective and an essential part of life.
Pain protects you, it alerts you to danger, often before you are injured. It makes you move differently, think differently and behave differently, which also makes it vital for healing.
Sometimes, however, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Ever notice how much a little paper cut can hurt? Or a canker sore on the inside of your mouth can debilitate you? Sure, it’s a bummer. But the fact is that pain (although unpleasant), is a normal response to what your brain judges to be a threatening situation.
Your brain is key to controlling and handling pain. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see what I mean…just witness those people who can walk over piping hot coals, or musclemen who can pull a truck with their teeth! Bottom line is that if problems do exist in your joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, immune system — or wherever — it wont hurt if your brain does not register it as such.
Most commonly pain occurs when your body’s alarm system alerts the brain to actual or potential tissue damage. But this is only part of a big story. Pain actually involves all of your body systems and all of the responses that occur are aimed at protection and healing.
Ask any person suffering from chronic pain and they'll tell you it hurts, but they can function with it. It’s because they have learned to live with it and have adopted life strategies to deal with it. Ask anyone who has a low threshold and is in pain — they shut down and are unable to function.
In the case of pain, the perception is just as real as the reality. That’s something many people, including many health professionals, do not fully understand. But understanding pain — its effect on the brain and its role in protecting your overall health — can do wonders to help you deal with it and manage it more effectively.