What is ‘pain’?

First of all it is important to understand what we are talking about. You will have explained your pain to various practitioners, and possibly have described it in terms of tissue damage or a trapped nerve: which is entirely a natural thing for you to do and is helpful as it forms a clinical picture for your clinician. However, it is important to understand that your clinician may want to spend some time discussing that while your pain ‘feels like’ damage, it may not be the case.

Acute pain is the pain we tend to associate with tissue damage and acts as a warning. It is manageable with physiotherapy and/or medicine and will improve within three months.

Chronic pain (also known as complex pain) is a different entity altogether. However, because we are more familiar with acute pain it is often the case that we associate chronic pain with a ‘warning’ or ‘damage’. Chronic pain is more associated with changes within the nervous system – sensitisation.

The above ‘protection’ phase is considered maladaptive because, far from the days of bed-rest, we now know that inactivity is more harmful to your health than activity. Eventually, you will increase your pain through this cycle and further sensitise your nervous system. This is referred to as secondary pain.