Physiotherapy: What Type of Pain Am I Feeling?  

Pain is one symptom that requires negatively affects every aspect of your life. Be it work, home, or recreational activities, your participation in all these areas is slowly but surely affected. Most often, you don’t know when and how it began. This, in turn, delays the right diagnosis and thereby, treatment. What could possibly be the solution?

In this blog post, we are giving you the information you need to take that baby step so that when you do visit your doctor or physiotherapist, they can get you started on the right path as quickly as possible.

First things first, if you’re struggling with pain, you are not alone. In 2020, the Federal government set up the Canadian Pain Task Force (CPTF) after estimating that one in five Canadians are living with chronic pain. It is now being addressed as a public health emergency requiring immediate action.

While the public health system is figuring out strategies to better manage the situation, at Revere, we believe that empowering individuals with information is a good way to improve outcomes and quality of life. As the best physiotherapist in Vancouver, we are dedicated to providing exceptional care and helping you find relief from pain.

When you learn to categorize your pain, you can narrow down causes, description, and intensity of pain with clarity. This will give your clinician all the information they need to begin your treatment quickly and effectively.

Modern Pain Science:

After years of careful research, it is now established that pain is not as straight forward as you might come to assume. In other words, it is not as simple as, “my toe hurts because I stubbed it on the couch.”

If that were to be true, then once the underlying nail or tissue heals, the pain should necessarily go away. We now know that is not the case. From direct injury to body tissue all the way to perception of that injury as the uncomfortable sensation of pain, the whole process is a complex one.

For purposes of simplification, pain has been classified into 3 types. We’ll also look at physiotherapy management strategies for each type of pain individually.

Types of Pain:

Nociceptive pain:

Nociceptive pain is the type of pain that occurs when the body’s tissues are damaged or injured. It derives its name from the specialized nerve endings that are situated all over the body called nociceptors. When you are experiencing tissue damage due to an injury, these receptors detect the injury and relay the message to the brain, which then interprets the sensation as pain.

Typically, this pain is described as aching, throbbing, or sharp as it can be localized to a particular part of your body.

An example of this kind of pain would be a cut or a bruise from direct injury to the underlying tissue. Nociceptive pain will usually heal on its own. Duration for healing can vary depending on severity and related factors. Generally, the body is capable of healing acute pain on its own within a period of 2 to 6 weeks.

In some cases, the healing may occur incorrectly, for example, in a suboptimal posture leading to stiffness in surrounding areas. This mechanism is called regional interdependence. This would necessitate a more in-depth approach to your healing and recovery.

Otherwise, nociceptive pain can usually be managed with manual therapy, an individualized exercise protocol, work/environment modifications, and patient education for pain management. A comprehensive assessment will be most beneficial to determine the best plan of care.

Neuropathic pain.

If the words you use to describe your pain include the following- burning, tingling, or shooting pain, then you are probably experiencing neuropathic pain.

It is a type of pain that results from damage or dysfunction of the nervous system. This can be caused by direct injury or trauma, nerve compression, degenerative diseases of the peripheral nervous system such as autoimmune conditions, or even by medical treatments. The burning or shooting sensation you feel is a result of first-hand injury to the nerves.

This pain can be constant or intermittent and can be accompanied by numbness and weakness.

Understanding the root pain can be instrumental in deciding the next step of action. Typically, neuropathic pain requires more time to heal and more intense physiotherapy treatment strategies. You can expect 6 to 12 weeks approximately to experience complete relief.

Physiotherapy management of neuropathic pain includes a more aggressive approach including dry needling, shockwave therapy and manipulations for correcting posture.

As the best physiotherapist in Vancouver, we specialize in providing tailored treatment plans for neuropathic pain to help you find long-lasting relief.

Central or Chronic pain

Any pain that is felt for longer than 12 weeks can be classified as central or chronic pain. The reason being, it has been there long enough to make significant changes to the central nervous system, which includes both the brain and spinal cord. At this point, the pain has changed the way the central nervous system processes sensory information.

The causes of central pain can vary from stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, or spinal cord injury, etc. The pain can be described as chronic, severe, and mostly difficult to manage as sensory, emotional, and cognitive components are involved.

In addition to the physical symptoms of burning and throbbing pain, you may also be experiencing anxiety and/or depression.

Complete recovery from this type of pain can only be possible when all these factors are addressed- sensory, emotional, and cognitive aspects. Physiotherapy management of central pain will include aggressive treatment to reset your system with lots of corrective exercises. In addition to manual therapy, mobilization, and pain management, your physiotherapist may suggest a more structured approach such as active rehab to address the physical symptoms. You may also benefit from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to address the emotional and cognitive symptoms.

While pain is an uncomfortable sensation to experience, it may be useful to view it as a way of recognizing your body needs careful exploration and possibly rest. It can be one of the first signals your body is sending out for you to stop and take notice.

Paying close attention to your body and then describing your pain accurately to a medical professional, your physician, or your physiotherapist as early as possible can help with getting the right diagnosis and effective treatment. As the best physiotherapist in Vancouver, we are here to listen, assess, and provide you with the best care to ensure a thorough recovery.

At Revere, we are intentional about providing you the best care to ensure a thorough recovery. Reach out to us at [email protected].

If you feel ready, book an appointment with our expert physiotherapists right away.

We specialize in pain management and rehabilitation, offering personalized treatment plans to help you regain your quality of life.

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