Pain is a part of life. It is there from the beginning, in a small baby, and it is there at the end, when the person dies.
Pain is felt when some part of the body is pushed or pulled, squeezed or stretched, struck or subjected to force. Almost all tissues of the body have nerve endings that can make a person feel pain, and it is these nerve endings affected by all of the different pressures that may affect the body. When they are stimulated, they send a pain message to the brain and the brain interprets the message as pain. The brain controls everything in the body and the pain in the body is always produced by the brain, not the body. This means pain is a symptom of something; it is not usual to have pain with no cause for the pain.
Pain is almost always felt on the surface of the body, but it may be caused by something inside the body. Sometimes the pain is on the place that is causing the pain, and sometimes the pain is far away from the cause of the pain. Only a qualified person can tell the difference between the two.
Pain can also be divided into different types. There are pains like headaches and others like lower back pain. Sometimes the pain comes from an injury and sometimes the pain comes from the stomach or the lungs, while diseases can also be a cause of pain.
Most pains can be managed with medication; however, sometimes medication doesn’t work. In such cases, there are other options for the patient, such as seeing a physiotherapist, chiropractor, surgeon or biokineticist, who are all qualified to help ease the pain.
Here are some steps to help manage pain:
When you feel pain, stop what you are doing and take note of exactly what it is you were doing, to be able to tell the doctor.
If you have a specific injury, try the following:
- Elevate the part of the body that is sore.
- Put a bandage on, if you can. Wrap the bandage firmly, but not too tightly.
- Take the bandage off every now and then to apply an ice-pack. Wrap the ice in a wet towel or dishcloth. Apply the ice-pack for a maximum of 10 minutes. You can re-apply the ice-pack every hour if you would like to.
- Let the injured part rest for a day or two. If it doesn’t get better, consult your doctor.
If there is no specific injury, rest and painkillers can help. Consult your doctor or physiotherapist if you don’t get better.
Note that some pains do feel better with rest, while other pains prefer movement. You should try to see which one works best for you. Your medical professional can help you with that.
Martin Elvey, MSc Physiotherapy (Wits) is a registered physiotherapist and lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He is the CEO of The Pain Care Group and has been working with managing pain for over 20 years. He teaches pain management and anatomy at Wits University.