How do you perceive pain?

Our brain does some awesome yet oddly weird things during our lifetime. One of the most confusing and frustrating experiences we navigate is pain. Pain is our brain’s response to a multitude of factors and signals it receives from our body. Even our memories of prior experiences factors into our perception of pain!

Imagine you just stubbed your toe while walking. A tiny trip over a pebble can hurt and leave you immobilised by pain. How is it that such an innocent little incident causes so much pain?

Possibly in this scenario, the last time you stubbed your toe you actually fractured it, had a terrible recovery in which you were stuck in a boot for ages and you had to make many lifestyle changes to accommodate it. These memories are brought up again when your brain receives the signal from your toe and tries to make sense of the signal. Your brain interprets the signal as if you broke your toe again and amplifies the signal to tell your body “DANGER – YOU’VE BROKEN YOUR TOE AGAIN!”. Even though this isn’t the case.

Equally, you might be walking through the bush and feel something across your leg. You might think “Oh it’s just a branch” because that’s what you’ve experienced many times before. This time however, it turns out to be a venomous snake bite and you are in real and present danger.

Perception can really mess with us. Try this fun experiment at home to demonstrate this. Take two glasses and fill one with warm water and one with cold water.  Place your index and ring fingers in the warm water, while simultaneously putting your middle finger in the cold water. As your brain tries to make sense of the situation it will tell you the middle finger is in boiling hot water! How odd!

In a practical sense if you are experiencing back pain for example, the relevant tissue damage may be nowhere near as severe as what your pain is telling you. It’s important to discuss your symptoms with a health professional like your physiotherapist so they can go through all the information to give you a plan for recovery addressing all relevant factors. Call us on 9997 4970 or book online today!

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