Pain or Discomfort?

by cshafer, July 12, 2016

Is there a difference between pain & discomfort?

The answer is absolutely there is a difference. The most common reason that a patient visits a physical therapist or any other medical professional is for the big P word (pain).

But what is pain & what is discomfort and how do we tell the difference and how do we address either one of them?

Think of pain as a very sharp, searing, or pepiercing sensation that stops you from what you are doing in the moment.  In contrast, discomfort can be defined as soreness, or as a dull ache. A great example of discomfort is when someone is not accustomed to exercise and one day they decide to go to the gym and perform multiple squats.

The squats may not be very pleasant, and they may even feel a sensation in the lower back, hips, or the front of the thighs. The reason for this sensation is 2-fold and is mechanical and neurological in nature. From a mechanical perspective, the structures in your body including ligaments, bones, muscles, & other soft tissues are attempting to adapt to an external load to which it is not accustomed too. From a neurological perspective, your Central Nervous System is sending and receiving a multitude of various signals regarding movement in 3-dimensional space such as balance, & strength.

If our Nervous System is unaccustomed to movement or new signals regarding movement, these signals may be interpreted as pain, discomfort, tightness, or something unknown.

The take home here is that when we think about pain or discomfort, we need to know that there truly is a difference. Because pain is an output of the brain, when we change the way we think about pain and understand that it can be controlled, the experience of pain or discomfort may not be as unpleasant.

If you have neck, low back, or any other type of pain in Metro Detroit, Complete Rehab can help you! Click here to call & schedule an appointment today!

-Dr. Chad Shafer,DPT,CSCS

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