What is Pain?

Article adapted from What is Pain by Lorimer Moseley

What do you think pain is? We are often told “pain is there to protect you” or “pain means there is something wrong in the body”.  Have you heard of Referred pain? or Phantom Limb pain?  In these cases pain is present in the body in places where there is no trauma, sometimes not even a limb, yet pain is still felt. How does this happen?

Previously pain has been described as an indicator that tissue is damaged. However Science no longer agrees with this explanation. Pain is now considered a “complex and highly sophisticated protective mechanism” (L, Moseley)

It’s like rain – people say they love the smell of rain but rain does not actually smell. It is the chemical reaction from the plants and bacteria (actinomycetes) in the earth that release the smell called “Petrichor” that ACTUALLY make the smell of rain. With pain we have millions of nociceptors (pain receptors) in our body that send messages to the brain when they are stimulated. It is the BRAIN however that sends the message back to that body part saying OUCH my _____ hurts!

Messages to the brain are simply chemical sensations – it is the BRAIN that ACTUALLY interprets them as pain in conjunction with all of the other data surrounding the situation. Data can include expectation, previous experience, cultural norms/beliefs and sensory data that you see and hear.

Nociceptors detect a sudden change in the environment around them. With change in temperature pressure acidity etc. they instigate our inflammatory pathways that cause healing to occur. Inflammation then intensifies the sensitivity of these receptors reinforcing the pain message the brain is sending. This can cause the brain to protect and guard even more than is necessary.




So how do can we decrease the pain output from the brain?

There are numerous ways to decrease the pain output;
Acupuncture has been proven to reduce inflammation therefore reduce pain. Remedial Massage techniques help the body to remove the waste from the inflammatory process, reducing swelling and desensitizing the nociceptors that respond to pressure. The power of distraction is a wonderful thing. If you can make something else seem more important to the brain it will reduce pain – this is how some competitors will finish a race with a broken limb. At Physio North we are the masters of distraction. Connect therapy is the use of mental cueing to correct structural imbalances, by engaging the brain in activity so you both achieve proper muscle activation and the brain is so busy thinking it reduces the painful signalling. Our therapists will engage you in your treatment and empower you to continue treatment at home so you can reinforce the safe message to your brain and be responsible for your own pain minimisation.

We can help!

For the brain to reduce pain, it must believe the situation is safe and the evidence of danger from the body’s receptors has ceased or reduced significantly. It is here that exercises allocated during your Physio consultation will encourage your body to believe it is strong enough to proceed. Pilates is a controlled gentle exercise program that encourages the muscles to protect unstable joints thus making the brain feels safer to move thereby inhibiting the pain mechanism.


Call our friendly receptionists on 07 4724 0768 for an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists today so you can move and feel your best!