Is Your Pain Normal?
Do you ever get headaches? Do you get back aches or neck pain? Do your hands or wrists hurt sometimes from overuse? Do your legs and feet feel tired after a long day? This is all normal right? Regular wear and tear from daily life. It is expected that sometimes your body may feel a little run down simply from your activities of daily life. Maybe you have a physical job where you’re bending and twisting and lifting. Maybe you have a desk job where your joints get stiff from having to sit at a computer all day. Maybe you are an athlete and you have chronic injuries from years of playing hard. Maybe you have children and you never sleep comfortably in your own king sized bed because one or more of them have taken up the entire mattress and there’s a foot in your face or an elbow in your back. Whatever the reason is, there are unavoidable and normal circumstances that can lead to some discomfort in your body. But is the pain normal?
The answer is likely “yes” that the pain is normal meaning that it is not life threatening nor is it a total mystery as to why it hurts. What I am not sure is normal is the attitude of acceptance we seem to have regarding our pain. I regularly have clients come in who have been in pain for months or even years because they have deemed it normal. The response I get from some clients when I am assessing their pain is “ya but this is just normal aches and pain. It doesn’t bother me that much”. We are resilient. We are unfortunately accustomed to living in a certain amount of discomfort. But I am not sure why we are so ok with this. What if I told you that you didn’t have to be in pain? What if I told you that your body could feel a hell of a lot better than it does most of the time? What if I told you that if you continue to accept pain and discomfort that it will eventually get to a point that you cannot accept it anymore? The last point may have had some of you rolling your eyes. And I get it. I myself might have some normal aches and pains after a hectic day, after doing a lot of physical labour, or after sitting for too long. And you’re correct in saying that it goes away on its own. Or maybe some of you pop an advil and go to bed and wake up fine. Awesome. But does that mean that whatever was causing that pain is gone? Maybe not.
Sure sure you can experience pain from a onetime event, recover, and be on your merry way. But more often than not, whatever caused the pain is probably either the result of a deeper underlying issue such as a postural or biomechanical problem, weak or overstretched muscles, contracted or over worked muscles, degeneration in joints from aging or overuse, scar tissue from an injury…you get my point right? Meaning that there is likely a chance that the pain will return in a similar situation. It is also possible that the pain is telling your body that it needs attention because it will be worse the next time. But if the advil and rest works, why do I need to worry? Well you don’t necessarily need to worry but is the advil doing anything other than masking a problem? I am not saying there is never a time and place for your advil but ask yourself “how often am I reaching for that bottle?"
What causes pain? Well as I mentioned above, posture, biomechanics, overuse, inflexibility, degeneration, injury, or aging can cause pain. There are other aspects to pain. The most recently accepted model of pain is called the biopsychosocial model of pain which describes pain as a dynamic interaction between biological, psychological, and social factors which are unique to each individual. Pain is subjective. Some people who may seem like they should be feeling some sort of pain may report that they feel ok. Others who may report feeling pain may not present with other subjective or objective findings that support the report of pain. But however manageable or unmanageable your pain is- why not do something about it? Why not make sure that the most important part of your life (your body) is functioning at its most optimal level?
I am not suggesting that Massage Therapy is the answer for everyone. Just like pain being subjective, the therapeutic experience will also vary quite a bit from client to client. But what is constant is the very real fact that ignoring pain, or masking pain with over the counter medication, is not going to help your body to function optimally. What should you do then? My advice is the exact same for every new client I see. We do an assessment on the first visit. I share my findings with the client. We then make a very short term treatment plan to assess whether or not I am the person to help them out. If we are lucky enough to get positive results after the first 3 visits or so, we then work together to make more long term goals and a realistic treatment plan. Why not do that? Take a chance and step out of your comfort zone. Do some research. There are so many complementary healthcare options available and many are covered by extended healthcare benefits. There are many therapists who are willing to work with you and empower you to work on things at home, or with them, and to stay within your budget.
The reason I am writing this today is that I want you all to actually take a minute and evaluate how you feel. If you cannot say that you feel great well then you must ask why? Are you tired? Are you stressed? Are you achy from lack of exercise? Are you sore from work or housework or playing with your kids? Do your joints creak and crunch and feel like they could just give out on you? This doesn’t have to be your norm. Way too many of us live with unnecessary, needless pain and the only thing stopping us from feeling better is not asking for help. If your car was making squeaking noises you would go to the mechanic. If your pet was seeming lethargic even though they are getting adequate sleep you would go to the vet. If your drain was clogged or your toilet kept running you may call a plumber. Why when your body hurts do you feel like you either have to deal with the pain or handle it yourself? Your body really should be a priority and making sure it is as healthy as possible could save you a lot of time, money, energy, and pain in the future. Just don’t wait until you can’t take it anymore. It may be too late to get the results you’re hoping for.
Amanda Cooke, RMT