Don’t Trust Your Pain

Knee pain descending stairs (Zac)

We have all experienced physical pain (in fact, my own history of low back pain is what interested me in sports physical therapy).

Maybe you injured your back lifting weights. Perhaps you hurt you shoulder playing catch with your kids. You may have irritated your knee when training for a marathon.

You decide to see your doctor, physical therapist, or medical provider of choice. They then prescribe the recommended treatment or “plan of care.”

Throughout the course of treatment, you determine if you are getting better by monitoring your pain. Is it decreasing? Is it staying the same or getting worse? If your pain is improving, the treatment is working. If not, it is failing. Pretty straight forward.

That is the way that standard physical therapy views treatment but is short sighted.

Modifying your daily activities or exercise routines will help pain quickly improve in the short term but the root causes of the pain remain. This is when many people stop going to physical therapy or performing their home exercise routine.

This pain-free period of time provides the body with an opportunity to address the root causes of pain. This is essential if you wish to prevent it from returning in the future while returning to full activity.

Pain is a prediction made by the brain. When pain continuously occurs during a movement or activity, the body learns to expect it. This expectation must lessen for pain to ultimately disappear during aggravating activities. If you really want to nerd out on pain science, check out this article by my friend and fellow physical therapist, Zac Cupples.

Imagine that you have lower back pain every time that you attempt to lift something off the floor such as deadlifting a barbell in the gym or emptying dishes out of the dishwasher.

The brain has an expectation that this bent over position will hurt. Therefore, similar positions must be experienced without pain. Does this mean that you should start deadlifting on day 1 of treatment. Absolutely not. The best solution is to start with something less threatening and build from there. Below is an example of a great activity that physical therapy patients with low back pain start with.

The brain will then determine that these positions are not threatening, ultimately reducing risk of pain in the future while facilitating a full return to active life.

If you are an active adult ready to solve chronic pain for good, contact us to receive a customized home exercise program today!

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