“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” – Buddhist saying

Pain is a signal sent to our awareness when something is wrong.  Injurious events are picked up by our nerve endings and send to relay stations in the brain where they are interpreted for reaction.  Sometimes pain is referred from another muscle or organ some distance from the pain.  Expertise is required to resolve the cause of the pain…not just the symptoms.

Pain is a common and normal occurrence in everyday life, yet few of us understand it.  For some “no pain, no gain” is a euphemism for life’s challenges, while for others pain is something to avoid and mitigate at all costs.  Pain is the most common reason for Canadians seeking health care and is the primary complaint in 78% of people reporting to hospital emergency rooms.[i]

Pain has a human and a financial cost.  “Direct health care costs for pain in Canada are more than $6 billion each year….Lost productivity costs relating to sick days and job loss are estimated at $37 billion each year.”[ii]

Let’s Get to the Bottom of Your Pain

Pain has many dimensions.  From a strictly physiological (ie: body-functioning) or sensory perspective, practitioners are interested in the location, onset, intensity, quality and pattern of the pain.  We also want to know the affective impact on how pain affects your mood – does it cause anxiety or depression?  How does it affect your well-being?  Your perception of pain is influenced by your cognitive processes: what does pain mean to you?  What are your attitudes and beliefs about yourself and about pain…is pain a punishment, or simply a signal of something off-line?  What are your coping skills and strategies in dealing with pain?  What has been your experience in receiving treatment for your pain?

For some people their pain is made worse by behaviours they themselves are generating.  Using words and language that communicate a lost sense of control or victimization, or the opposite of not expressing painful feelings can repress those feelings and lead to physical pain.  Being fearful or apprehensive due to the fear of pain, limiting physical activity causing a deconditioned body, not getting sufficient sleep/rest or using medications excessively can impair our ability to deal with pain.

Your pain perception is also influenced by your socio- and ethno-cultural background.  Do you have family members relying on you?  Does pain affect your ability to function in your work, your social situations or recreational pursuits?  Is the display of pain rewarded or inhibited in your culture or family of origin?

The Enormity of Pain in Society

Leon Chaitow, DO, ND describes the enormity of pain this way:

“Pain is probably the single most common symptom experienced by humans and, along with fatigue, is the most frequent reason for anyone consulting a doctor in industrialized societies – indeed the World Health Organization (1981) has suggested that pain is ‘the primary problem’ for developed countries.

Within that vast area of pain, musculo-skeletal dysfunction in general, and back pain in particular, feature large.  If symptoms of pain and restriction are viewed in isolation, with inadequate attention being paid to the degree of acuteness or chronicity, their relationship with the whole body and its systems (including the musculoskeletal and nervous systems) – as well as, for example, the emotional and nutritional status of the individual and of the multiple environmental, occupational, social and other factors which impinge upon them – then it is quite possible that they will be treated inappropriately.”[iii]

Massage Therapy in the Treatment of Pain

According to Wright and Sluka,[iv] “Massage is thought to induce a variety of positive physiological effects that may contribute to tissue repair, pain modulation, relaxation, and improved mood.”[v]

Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, from the Group Health Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, and colleagues reported that massage therapy may effectively reduce or relieve chronic back pain for 6 months or more.   [vi]

The results of this parallel-group, randomized controlled trial were reported in the July 5, 2011 issue of the  Annals of Internal Medicine.  Dr. Cherkin notes, “We found that patients receiving massage were twice as likely as those receiving usual care to report significant improvements in both their pain and function,” Further, “After 10 weeks, about two-thirds of those receiving massage improved substantially, versus only about one-third in the usual care group.”

[i]  http://www.canadianpainsociety.ca/pdf/pain_fact_sheet_en.pdf

[ii]  http://www.canadianpaincoalition.ca/media/cpc_brief_pall_comp_care.pdf, pg 7

[iii] Chaitow, L: Muscle Energy Techniques, 2nd edition.  Churchill Livingstone 2001 p 22

[iv] Wright A, Sluka KA. Nonpharmacological treatments for musculoskeletal pain. Clin J Pain 2001;17:33–46

[v]  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/559775_4

[vi]  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/745953