Avoid These Two Dangerous Health Assumptions Involving Pain
By Dr. Molly Casey
People make all sorts of assumptions about their health. Many of the assumptions are simply passed on throughout society and folks have no real idea why they even think the way they do. This is dangerous when assumptions are false because your health can ultimately suffer. There are some very common untrue assumptions that are constantly being corrected in the chiropractic office. So let’s go over the most common two.
No Pain Equals Healthy
The nervous system is the communication system of the body. You exist because of it and the quality of both your existence and your health depend on the nervous system functioning optimally. The brain communicates with every cell, system, and structure in the body by sending electrical impulses down the spinal cord and out nerves to the intended spot. Those cells, systems, and structures send information back to the brain via nerves and the spinal cord. Some of the information sent is called nociceptive information. This is pain information. The key word is some.
Approximately 11 percent of the nervous system has the capability to transmit nociceptive information. The other 89 percent of the system is transmitting information that has nothing to do with nociception, aka pain. This tells us that if one is looking for a reliable health indicator, it isn’t logical to use a sensory aspect of the system that only 11 percent of the system can transmit. Think about it, nearly 90 percent of the system is working doing other things, automatic things that keep you alive and functioning that you don’t have to think about.
Lack of pain has nothing to do with level of functioning and health. It’s an absolute myth that lack of pain equals healthy.
No Pain, No Problem
“I’m not in pain: the problem is gone.” This assumption goes along with no pain equals healthy. Think of this as an example: loose wheel bearings on your car. They can cause tires to wear unevenly, create a loud noise coming from the wheel area, and the feeling of loose steering. At some point the wheel bearing had to start getting loose -- and maybe that’s when the wheels started wearing unevenly. The more you drive, the problem gets increasingly worse, reaching the point in which you hear the noise and feel a loose steering wheel.
Just because the loud noise and loose steering weren’t present from the very beginning doesn’t mean that the bearings weren’t loose. It just means that those were the last symptoms to present themselves; you could have tightened them some and made the noise go away and made the steering more precise, but it wouldn’t fully fix the problem.
This is exactly the same for pain and your body. Pain is a symptom that often presents last. It is when the dysfunction of the joints, muscles, and/or other parts of the structure have been stressed enough that a “big” symptom, pain, finally presents itself. In my experience as a chiropractor, I have often seen there were other symptoms before pain presented that went unnoticed. Small notations of dysfunction,such as it being harder to squat, able to stand for a few minutes less, or other functional changes that were small enough for you to not take note. Then there is one last activity that puts the body over the edge and pain ultimately results -- the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Just because there is no pain does not mean there is no structural problem.
One more element that’s important to note with the “no pain, no problem” assumption is masking the pain. There are numerous ways we humans can mask pain whether it’s by taking medication, using modalities, or using other exercises to compensate. The risk is that if we are covering up the pain the problem is not gone. It’s common for folks to take medication and the pain will be gone, so they will return to the behavior that got them there in the first place and make the problem worse. It’s an absolute myth that “no pain no problem” is acceptable.
Assumptions are dangerous. This goes for all areas of life, including health. Don’t jump on board with the two most common assumptions that can get create a great deal of trouble in life and health. Be proactive in your health journey and don’t fall prey to the lazy assumptions.
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