Working with people and athletes of all abilities, ages and body types, I have found one strong consistency. Everyone seems to think that their pain is extremely unique to them and that likelihood of a full recovery is poor due to their dysfunction being ‘different’. It is not different. Every human body has the same bones, the same muscles, the same joints, the same basic abilities. Yes, there are differences in genetic make-up and body shapes but at the root of everything, a human is a human is a human. With that in mind, injuries that are sustained to the musculoskeletal system are also all the same. An Olympic Track Athlete with a pulled hamstring has the same exact pulled hamstring as a 6 year old running on the playground. The difference is perception, memory, and emotion.
You can go to any Physiology book, Sports Medicine Physician, Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, or Google article and find out long it takes a muscle, joint, or bone to heal. You can not go to such a broad spectrum of sources to discover how long it will take YOU to heal. Regardless of your body’s ability to heal a tissue based on your prior level of function, nutrition, sleep, physical rehabilitation, you have built an emotional response to your pain, the initial injury and the activities it has prevented you from doing. This is where your pain becomes personal to you. Pain is a perception of sensation, and with every ‘painful’ sensation that you feel, your brain immediately relates it to past experience with that sensation. It is imperative to address the mental aspect of pain and dysfunction possibly more that the true musculoskeletal issue. If you never confront the fear behind your pain, you will never fully rehabilitate from the injury and maintain a higher level of predisposition for that same injury again.
I never tell any of my patients that they are not feeling pain, because they absolutely are. The question, is WHY are they feeling pain. Is it a stressful activity that is putting enough stress on their tissues to create such a sensation? Or are they doing something that I know is absolutely not stressful enough to cause pain and their brain is interpreting the signals as pain due to relating the activity to something that hurt them in the past? As a clinician that is my job to discern and communicate with my patient to find the true cause of their pain.
I rarely come across an injury that I have not seen before, but everyday I come across a new person with new memories, experiences, fears and emotions. Damage to the body is the easy part, rehabilitating their emotional response and creating strategies for them to allow their body to conquer its fear is the puzzle. Every person has been on their own journey to get to where they are today and where they are going. Do not let your perception that your pain is unique therefore you will never find help prevent you from optimizing your journey. Understand that your pain is personal and find the right avenue of help that allows you to explore the emotions and fears and works along side you to create new experiences and strategies to optimize your human experience. The only difference between each one of us is how we perform through the fortune and misfortune of life and how we perceive events along our individual journey.