When pain can mean protection

Pain is essential for survival and forces us to take action. An integral part of our alarm system, it also alerts us to mental overload.

Sebastian Cormier

04. June 2024

Foot from behind while walking
Go for a walk. Let your body know that it is safe. (Photo: Pexels)

Pain is a part of a sophisticated and complex system that has evolved over millions of years. Many sufferers tend to believe that pain receptors transmit signals about tissue damage to the brain via nerve pathways. But that is not the case.  
Pain as a warning sign  

Pain is a warning sign. Some 90 per cent of patients who visit the doctor with back pain are not suffering from specific, structural tissue damage. Lumbago is extremely painful and physically debilitating, yet it is rarely associated with a serious injury.  
We may experience pain when other factors have a negative impact on our lives. Poor sleep, long-term stress, feelings of depression and anxiety can affect the body: it feels under threat so prompts us to act by responding via pain.  
Breaking a vicious circle  
There are often multiple reasons for a persistent hypersensitisation of the alarm system and in a few cases this can lead to a chronic condition of "overprotection". In this "defective" state, we seek supposedly safe alternatives to everyday automatic movements. People often stiffen up in the process. Well-meant advice is not always useful: being "more careful" can also involve encouraging the patient to remain immobile. This can create a vicious circle. Motivation is key: demonstrate understanding for the pain and foster trust in the body's ability to heal itself. 
No need to be alarmed - remain patient  

  • Acute pain is very unpleasant and never comes at the right time. However, it often gets better quickly. Accept it as the response of Mother Nature and stay positive. Try to find movements or positions that do not cause you pain. Applying heat, tape, breathing exercises or relief positions are often more helpful than taking medication.  
  • Start off gently and increase the intensity gradually. Even if the pain is acute, you will find movements that you can tolerate. If you are unable to bend forwards, try lying on your side, then get on all fours and finally move into a sitting position. Go for a walk. Let your body know that it is safe.  
  • Movement is encouraged in spite of pain. Each person experiences pain in their own way, which is why it's important to discover one's own limits. Our bodies are built to adapt, strong, and react highly positively to individualised training, which reduces the risk of relapse.