This is a very common question that is very simple and very complex. How do you know if that pain you feel is an ok pain to work through or tolerate or something that you should stop and take notice of? As we’ve talked about in previous newsletters, pain is a signal sent to and interpreted by the brain that something somewhere is not right and needs to change. It can mean “stop right now!” or it can mean “maybe you should do that a little differently- slower, smaller, faster.” Pain is a signal put out by the brain to get our attention, and is usually the brain’s highest priority. It means something is “wrong” and you need to fix it! Exercising, moving, or living in constant pain eventually leads to very difficult chronic pain issues where pain signaling goes “haywire” and becomes very difficult to shut off. So, we can’t necessarily refer to any pain as “good,” but pain is very necessary. If we didn’t feel or experience pain, we’d be in bad shape. So, how do we determine whether a pain is an “OK” pain or something more? First, qualify it. Is it something I can relax into and it will go away? (not just tolerate or ignore) If the answer is “yes” then you may proceed, cautiously, with whatever activity you are doing or planning on doing. If it’s persistent and won’t go away, it’s time to do something about it: Change positions if you’ve been doing the same thing for an extended period. (“positions” is open to interpretation- physical, professional, you get the gist!) Move! (mobility, walk, etc) Give your visual system a new stimulus (probably the most underutilized but most effective tool)- eye circles, near/far switches, side to side or up and down quick eye movements. Do whatever movement is painful/problematic smaller and slower. Try anything! Pain is very important to pay attention to, but at the very basic level pain is signals to and interpretation by your brain. It can be a very strong or a small signal. The key is to change the signal; change the interpretation- do something different than you’re currently doing. Keep trying things until you find something that works! (odds are it won’t take too long to change the signal- our brain likes new things) Obviously, if you are injured or have a severe pain that you can’t improve, seeking the help of a professional is strongly encouraged. If you want to learn more about pain and how it works in the brain Explain Pain by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley is a great book that’s incredibly informative and easy to read and understand. You can also check out Dr. Moseley’s blog that has daily entertaining and up-to-date articles on pain and the brain:


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