What is pain?

Pain is a signal from the body that there is damage or injury, for example from a fall. It is an unpleasant sensation that can be stinging, throbbing, nagging or cramping in nature. Besides an actual trauma, pain can also be caused by overload, inflammation (pressure/traction) or damage to the nervous system. Pain is therefore actually a mechanism that protects us from serious damage.

In the body, we distinguish two types of pain, acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is easy to recognize. This pain occurs after damage (a cut in your hand, for example). This type of pain is generally stabbing in nature and the location of the pain can be clearly indicated. Acute pain usually goes away quite quickly. Chronic pain is pain that persists for at least three months. In this case, we can no longer speak of tissue damage.

Pain is measurable, we do this with the help of an NRS (Numeric Rating Scale) or VAS (Visual Analog Scale). We ask the patient to give a score of 0-10 (NRS) or 0-100 (VAS) to provide insight into the amount of pain experienced. These data can be used for evaluation and play a role in choosing the right treatment method.

Cushioning pain

Despite the fact that feeling pain is very important, we sometimes want to dull the pain. Fortunately, the body has various ways of reducing pain. We can use medication such as paracetamol or NSAIDs, but also interventions such as dry-needling, TENS/shockwave, relaxation therapy, heat/cold, massage, manipulations, movement and rest. All these ways of reducing pain ensure that less pain is experienced by making the body less sensitive to pain stimuli.

What is muscle pain?

Muscle pain is, as the name suggests, pain in the muscles. We distinguish two forms of muscle pain, namely early and late muscle pain. Early muscle pain occurs just after an effort and is caused by exhaustion and acidification of the muscles. Late muscular pain occurs 24/48 hours after an effort and is caused by hairline cracks in the muscle which occurred by the requested load. With muscle pain you often suffer from a nagging stiff feeling in a certain muscle (group). Muscle pain is generally experienced after sport or another intensive activity and is a normal reaction of the body to the load asked of it. Muscle pain is therefore clearly different from 'real' pain.

Rehabilitation and pain

When you visit a physiotherapist, the cause is often found in experiencing pain. Something is bothering you and you might be limited in your daily activities. Whether this is after an operation, after a trauma (fall, sprain, etc.) or by complaints that arose without clear reason, one thing is certain, you have problems with it. During treatment by a physiotherapist you may experience pain because a certain exercise or technique used by the therapist triggers symptoms. Sometimes this is necessary in order to achieve the intended result. However, there is a side note to this. Experiencing slight pain/complaints during a treatment is generally acceptable up to an NRS score of 2-3, as indicated by the patient. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Physiotherapists often advise you to stay in motion during rehabilitation, because this promotes recovery. It can happen that during the daily activities you experience pain, sometimes even more than an NRS score 3. Do not be alarmed by this. It is not a problem to feel more pain now and then; in general this has no effect on recovery. However, it is important to make sure that this does not happen too often. So try to adjust movements and activities that cause a lot of pain, or temporarily avoid them. Your physiotherapist can give you good advice on this.

In addition to pain during treatment, it can also happen that a treatment results in an after-reaction. With an after-reaction we mean the temporary increase of the experienced burden/pain/restriction due to the stimuli given to the body during physiotherapy. So it could be that a patient with neck problems has less pain after a treatment, but a few hours later experiences more pain. Sometimes this even results in a feeling of numbness. This is a normal reaction of the body to the given stimuli. However, we would like to see the after-reaction diminish within 24 hours.

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