Bruce Konings

Pain  from sports injuries, spinal conditions, nerve pain and chronic pain

When researching to better understand pain, you need to consider:pain-management

  • Why is pain such a severely debilitating and prolonged problem for some, with a huge variation of opinions on what to do about it?
  • Is there a better way to see the underlying cause of pain, and therefore manage it more effectively?
  • Research shows that at some stage 45% of the population will suffer musculoskeletal pain.

It may surprise you to read that the common understanding of how pain arises has recently been shown to be inaccurate. This is potentially why pain and injuries are a huge challenge for so many people. If we have a more clear, and more accurate, understanding of pain and other symptoms*, might this lead to faster solutions and better management of nearly all musculoskeletal conditions?

The new thinking regarding pain

Some of the concepts presented below are very different to some long-standing beliefs in the medical and physiotherapy professions. While initially this may be challenging for some, overall this can be seen as a positive. Progress requires change.

If much better results can be achieved faster, with a different way of thinking, is it worth changing old thoughts about pain?

The misunderstanding about pain

The current thinking – Pain is a feeling.

There is growing body of neuroscience and physiotherapy research that is making it very clear that pain is not a feeling. This research clearly shows that there are no ‘pain receptors’, or ‘pain signals’ in your body’s tissues, as body tissue is incapable of ‘feeling’ pain.  So there is no pain ‘in’ any body part.

This insight is very helpful to directing our attention to the factors that need to be fixed to rid of and alleviate pain.

What does the latest pain research explain

Pain is actually created by the brain – for good reasons.

Understanding that pain is created by the brain allows us to focus on fixing the structures in the body that are the underlying causes of our brain in creating our feelings of pain.

This sometimes means that treating areas different to where the pain is created, may be the best way to achieve the most rapid and long-lasting results in your physiotherapy treatment.

Why is this such an important differentiation

This differentiation allows us to understand what is required to alleviate pain. If we accept that pain is not a feeling, should we try to fix the problem by solving the pain?

Here is a great example1-how-to-reset-a-check-engine-light-check-engine-light

Imagine your car is not starting. You see the engine warning light has appeared on your car’s dashboard. Would you fix your car’s problem by servicing the warning light, or would it be more sensible to check out the cars engine to find out what could be causing the problem?

The recent approach to pain studies takes the same approach. Pain is your brain’s equivalent of your car’s dashboard warning light. Pain is created by the brain to tell you there is a problem happening in your body. The principle of your brain’s creation of pain as a warning signal is incredibly helpful.

For example, if you hit your thumb with a hammer, the warning signal produced by the brain creates an experience like is pain ‘in’ your thumb. This is a very successful protective mechanism that results in moving your thumb out of the way of danger to prevent further damage. Or it may be that injury occurs in the spine and the warning signal produced by the brain creates a pain-experience ‘in’ a limb (or vice versa). This way limping, or stopping walking, is a protective mechanism to stop strain to the spine – because the leg hurts.

How does this help

Seeing conditions this way ensures that we treat the body parts that need the most help and not just where the pain is created. The added bonus is that this approach is similarly successful in alerting us to avoid behaviours that add more strain to the damaged area that matter the most for the condition – this helps prevent the recurrence of the injury.

This approach does not lesson the significance of pain, rather it validates how important pain is as a warning signal. Pain tells us to pay attention and change what we are doing to protect us from harm.

The brain is very smart and at least one step ahead of our consciousness. This is fundamentally a good thing because if we relied on our conscious awareness to avoid danger we would not do as well at protecting ourselves. For a start, our conscious awareness is too slow and distractible to respond effectively; and secondly, it would be too easy to consciously ‘override’ the warning by continuing our preferred activity despite the damage, until it’s really too late.

This way of thinking about pain does mean that we need to rely on atypical means of solving why the pain is occurring and how to most effectively fix the problem.

Let’s look an an example

If your right arm uses a mouse most of the day in an excessive forward-shoulder position and this creates a gradual build up of strain in the mid-back; your brain may respond by creating the experience of pain ‘in’ your right arm. Often this is also accompanied by muscles, nerves and joints suffering a condition (diagnosis) in the right arm also. This usually has the desired effect of changing the behaviour to avoid the poor position of your right arm whilst using a mouse.

This results in decreased strain to the middle of your back. When effectively solved with good physiotherapy; release of strain to the mid-back results in the brain ceasing creation of the right arm pain (and rapid resolution of the arm condition/diagnosis); then changing the mousing position, or posture, to minimise mid-back strain results in the brain having no reason to create the right arm pain again.

 Finding the root cause of pain

This way of thinking gives us good reason to explain why pain and symptoms are not good indicators for figuring out how to solve a dysfunction. In the example above, treatments to the pain in the right arm would not solve the problem, or gain a rapid and long-lasting result.

Ridgway Method Certified Practitioners have much better ways for figuring out what is causing the dysfunction and what needs to be treated to fix the problem, than trying to fix the ‘warning light’ of pain.

How does your brain create painnervous-system

We know that nerves carry impulses, or signals, from the body’s tissues that tell the brain about the state of the tissues. Information such as excessive stretch, excessive strain, over-compression, tearing, bleeding, and swelling etc. Both physical and chemical signals are transmitted to the brain indicating their current state. This all happens in our subconscious – we aren’t aware of it.

This newest, and Ridgway Method, way of thinking is that once the brain receives these signals, the subconscious brain decides on best approach to protect the body.

If the brain perceives these signals beyond a threshold and ‘bad enough’, then one of the brain’s protective reactions is to create the experience of pain and/or symptoms and make us conscious of needing to avoid damage. Without this protective response we would be much more likely to do more severe damage to ourselves, and for this reason pain is a very successful protective mechanism.

This protective response can greatly vary from person to person. Experience and research tells us that our individual brains are so different they can choose to produce a protective reaction, such as the type and location of the pain, that is individual to each of us.

On the other hand, if the brain perceives these signals are under the threshold and ‘not bad enough’ then we remain completely unaware of any problem. This whole process occurs at a subconscious level – and this happens every day to all tissues in our body as a natural process.

How does this understanding help us solve pain faster

Let’s go back to the car example and the dashboard warning light. How good would it be for all the parts of the cars engine, to be tested to see which ones are faulty? How good would it be to fix the faulty part, and know how to check this for yourself at regular intervals in the future?

As a result of this approach your dashboard warning light would go off and stay off and this would result in an optimal performance of your car.

This analogy fits the human body. How good would it be if your warning signal, i.e.pain, alerted you to get every part of your body tested that could relate to your problem to find out which ones might be faulty?

The next step is to fix the faulty part and when the most significant fault of the problem is fixed the pain goes away leaving your to body function at its best. Self checking that faulty part in the future and ensuring it remains in good shape is the best way of preventing recurrence.

The proactive approach is to tune the faulty part up, before the pain warning signal occurs. Many people are this proactive with their car, teeth, and general health why not with your musculoskeletal system.

Relieving tension

It is important to note that the vast majority of musculoskeletal condition’s ‘faulty parts’ are quickly fixable. We know from regular experience that the human body has an amazing capacity to change very quickly. Rebalancing unevenly distributed forces (even on warn body parts); releasing tension from strained areas; loosening stiff joints and supporting lax body parts can be rapidly changed (immediately in some and within a few sessions for most) for the vast majority of conditions.

We certainly hope this brief introduction to the most recent understanding of pain makes as much sense to you as it does to us. Please let us know if you would like more information.

A modern approach for solving painful musculoskeletal problems

Solving the dysfunction in the muscles, joints, nerves and bones means the brain no longer receives (noxious) signals of an unhappy state of the tissues – the result is there is no reason for the brain to create PAIN.

In the hands with a Ridgway Method Certified Practitioner you learn how to proactively manage your body and optimise your performance at the same time?

This problem solving process for pain requires a lot of technical skill, a lot of individual personal attention, including advanced problem solving and advanced testing methods; and the principle is simple when a good practitioner knows why and how to do it.

All Ridgway Method Certified Practitioners understand this process and follow a unique and standardised problem solving system to most rapidly test and solve musculoskeletal dysfunctions for faster results, and best prevention of pain.

Please feel free to ask questions about this material – Call us (08) 8555 5961.

Article references and definitions

1 – One of the most significant researchers in the world that leads to the information presented here is G. Lorimer Moseley, an Australian: the author of Painful Yarns – Metaphors & Stories to help understand the biology of pain.
*Specifically musculoskeletal pain symptoms: these include sharp pain, ache, deep pain, superficial pain, shooting pain, stabbing pain, lines of pain, points of pain, vague pain, pins and needles, burning pain, feeling of numbness, tingling, crawling-under-the-skin, feeling of tightness, deadness, heaviness…and many more.
**Musculoskeletal = joints, muscles, nerves & bony conditions.
+While this information focuses on the physical body parts we can test, there are also important mental ‘body parts’ for us to test. Commonly; thoughts, feelings and actions can be the ‘faulty part’ that needs to be changed and treated. When these are the most important ‘structures’ to treat and they are changed, then the pain (and body compensations) are not produced, the problem is fixed, and pain is not created by the brain.
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