• How Long Should You Wait to Treat Your Pain?

    pain meterMany people soldier through their pain as though it’ll just go away on it’s own. Some push through as though there’s some sort of badge of honor to be had by not getting it treated until they absolutely can’t take it anymore. Whether you think it’s more manly to work through your pain, are too Type A to let a little thing like pain stop you from being your usual go-getter self, hate doctors, or have some other reason, you do yourself a disservice by ignoring or waiting to treat your pain.

    Don’t Wait Until Pain Becomes Intolerable

    How long you’ve had the pain/tightness/dysfunction is far more important than how bad it hurts.

    I know this flies in the face of what we experience in our daily lives. If we can work through our pain our friends, family, and employers expect us to and we’re penalized in some way if we don’t. If the pain is bad enough that our ability to function is severely and noticeably limited, we’re often given some sympathy, compassion, and a little leeway to indulge ourselves and get treated.

    I’m a stoic German, so I know a thing or two about working through pain. I’m also in a healing profession so I can tell you from both personal and professional experience, we’ve got it backwards. We should be encouraging and rewarding people to take care of their pain as soon as it shows up.

    When I see someone within a week of pain onset, I can usually relieve their pain in 1, sometimes 2, massage or bodywork sessions. But when someone comes in who’s had pain for months, it takes longer for them to get relief. When it’s been years, it might be months before they get full relief. If they’ve had pain for decades, I recommend coming in as often as possible but caution them that they might never be totally rid of their pain.

    When Pain Turns Chronic

    Whether your pain is from an injury or from tight muscles caused by stress, your pain can morph from acute (sudden onset) into chronic (long-standing) pain into intractable (hard to control) pain if you don’t get it treated.

    I’m not telling you this to scare you or to get you to book a massage and bodywork session with me or any other therapist. But if the shoe fits…

    I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to end up in pain for the rest of your life. That may sound dramatic, but pain doesn’t work the way we used to think. Research is showing that pain is not a simple stimulus = pain response.

    There can be pain when there’s NO stimulus. There can be NO pain when there’s a massive stimulus. The nervous system can become hypersensitive and behave as though you’re being stabbed with knives when someone is running a feather over your skin. Almost everything we were taught about pain in regards to the hows and whys has been turned on its head by the new field of pain science. We used to think that severity of pain was more important than how long you’d had pain, but now we know it’s completely the opposite.

    Remember, this is not the girl or boy scouts… just because you once earned the badge for tolerating pain doesn’t mean you have to leave it on your uniform or continue proving that you earned it the hard way. If you currently wear this badge, let me assure you… I once proudly wore this badge as well. Maybe it’s my stubborn German genes or just a learned behavior from my stubborn German parents. I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I finally realized that when I treat my pain (and my client’s pain) right away, I (and they) feel better faster. It’ll be the same for you, I promise.

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