Understanding pain

Posted on: 3rd April, 2018

Category: Health & Lifestyle

Contributor: West Cork People

Eoin Roe is a chiropractor and afferent input specialist working in Skibbereen, Douglas and Kinsale. Please call 087 9582362 for an appointment. You can find him on FaceBook @EoinRoeChiropractic. Eoin would love to hear your comments on articles or posts and what health issues you would like to hear about.

I was driving to work the other day and listening to Pat Kenny on Newstalk and he announced that he would be interviewing someone about wearable technology that could tell you how you feel.

I don’t know what you think about that but I felt decidedly odd. The fact is that the human body is an amazingly complex biological machine that far exceeds the capacity of any computer at the moment and we are considering outsourcing our ability to feel, to a computer? We have already done the same with fit bits and apps on the phone to tell us when we are doing enough exercise, or not, rather than listening to what our bodies are telling us.

You may be thinking this has nothing to do with chiropractic or musculoskeletal medicine but I think it does. One of the biggest warning signs that our bodies give to us that something is not quite right is pain. We often ignore pain, putting it down to old age, or hard work, or some accident long ago.

I am not talking about the sort of pain that we get if we cut ourselves, or fall, that heals quickly, but persistent pain, even mild, that just won’t go away. Pain for which, you cannot think of any reason why it should be there. Additionally any sort of pain that requires long-term courses of painkillers, even over-the-counter painkillers, should be taken seriously and assessed. Masking pain with painkillers is not a solution only a crutch – and long-term use has some potential serious health implications (Marcum & Hanlon, 2010).

I often have patients presenting with knee or hip pain and they will say “it is just arthritis. I suppose I am getting old”. Conditions like osteoarthritis, often called wear and tear, do not just suddenly develop – they develop over a long period of time.  Pain is felt eventually when the joint swells and the actual surfaces of the joint are inflamed and damaged. What about the period before this? Often there will be a loss of Range of Motion (ROM). This is very noticeable in your hips and knees, you may not be able to kneel down comfortably any more or find that you are unable to pull your knee to your chest on one side, or there is mild pain that eases with movement.

The idea of wear and tear has a lot of traction in the national psyche and medical literature but to my mind it is not a great description. People often present with pain on one side and not the other. If it was a case of wear and tear wouldn’t we expect both knees to be bad? One of the factors that I always find involved in patients with knee and hip pain is muscle inhibition around the joint. I believe it is this muscle inhibition that sets up the instability in the joint, which over time results in wear and tear.

What if you could catch this early? Then you would be able to restore your mobility and strength and you would reduce the likelihood of wear and tear. Your body is constantly communicating with you, and when you listen, you will notice that it sends you a twinge as a warning flag to slow down, rest or get help. Perhaps it is time to give up the tech and start listening, and get that niggling pain checked out.

Marcum Z.A, Hanlon J.T,(2010) Recognizing the Risks of Chronic Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use in Older Adults. Ann Longterm Care. 2010; 18(9): 24–27.


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