Pain Myths #2 – “There’s nothing you can do”

April 24, 2018

To this I say Bollocks.

It is physiologically implausible, illogical and often replaces the more accurate “I don’t have the answer”.

Pain is not a terminal disease. Pain is an experience. An output of the nervous system which depends on all the many things that make up that person.

Arthritis is the classic example. Many people get arthritis. Everyone has changes on an xray as they get older. Not everyone has pain.

An example – Person 1.

50 years old, knee pain and swelling. Sees the GP, gets an xray, goes back to the GP. “You have arthritis, there’s nothing you can do. See how you go and let me know when you want a knee replacement”. Stops exercising because it hurts. Leg becomes deconditioned, nervous system becomes more protective, pain becomes worse. Knee replacement.

Person 2.

50 years old, knee pain and swelling. Sees the GP. “There’s nothing to worry about, it’s just a bit angry. Give tennis a break, go and see a (decent) physio (who knows what they are talking about) get it a bit stronger and get back to it. No fear of movement or pain. Improved capacity, less chance of pain in the future.

They still have arthritis.

The other classic is the person who has had persistent pain for years, tried every doctor, physio, faith healer and magic pill. The biomedical model of structure-only thinking leads to “there is nothing you can do”. What this translates as is “there is nothing you can do to improve the structures, and we don’t know why it still hurts.”

There are a million things you can do to change pain. It’s just really hard. Not even the people who do know what they are talking about know what will work every time. But let’s try it and if that isn’t working, try something slightly different.

The point is, understanding why it hurts is the starting point. Understand pain, know more about why what is happening is happening, move and progress.

Persistent pain is as complex as anything you could possibly imagine, and can be harder to navigate than the approach to the Death Star. But treatment doesn’t have to be complicated.

Understand. Move. Load. Progress.

If you have been told “there’s nothing you can do” please resist the temptation to try alternative, expensive, far out treatments involving energy crystals, spirit animals or herbal eyedrops. If a magic pill was the answer it would be the way, you wouldn’t have to buy it from an Eastern European PayPal account. Just because some health professionals don’t know what to say or do doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer. But the answer is long, hard and requires you to be in charge.

Pain can change.

Remember, the entire Death Star was taken down by a single shot by a kid from the desert.