What is pain about?
Understanding what is happening in your body
Where does pain act within the body and the brain?
Tips on how you can help yourself at home
Positive effects of massage on painful joints and muscles
The benefits of stretching for pain relief
The function of pain in our body is simply to keep us safe.
To tell us when there is danger so we can remove ourselves from that danger; when we prick ourselves we react by pulling our finger away from the source of the pain.
The pain receptors (nociceptors) in our skin send this message of danger along the pain nerves to our brain to be processed. It’s here that our particular response to pain is made to feel real to us. The way we perceive the pain is modified, reacted to according to the situation and environment in which we happen to be. The exact same pain stimulus will be perceived differently by different people according to the environment they are in.
This pain response can be perpetuated by these conditions being repeated and even anticipated; causing a heightened response.
Pain is often accompanied by tension around the area. The muscles tighten in response to the pain. This causes the muscles themselves and the area around to become congested; flow of the fluids which serve the muscles is restricted. This causes further trauma to the muscles and we have a viscous cycle which often leads to muscle spasm. Waste products from the cells build up and cause irritation, a bit like crystals, which in turn causes inflammation. It’s this inflammation which we perceive as pain in our muscles. In some cases, when pain is long term, it becomes chronic. You may be interested to read about the Gate Theory of pain.
Muscle spasm is caused when the flow of fluids has been completely closed off and the muscle can no longer relax. Relaxation of the muscles requires water around the proteins within the muscle fibres. This congestion is often stored within the muscle sheath and connective tissue surrounding the muscle.
See Self care and information about muscle pain and sprains
Stretching the body energises the muscles and allows greater flexibility.
What happens when we stretch?
Protein molecules are a spiral. This spiral needs to be a certain length to work best. New research has shown that it’s the water (Book: Gerald Pollack Cells, Gels and engines of life) which holds the protein molecules at the optimum length. When we stretch we are also stimulating our mechanoreceptors which 'switch off' dampen or inhibit nociceptor (pain) stimulation.
If water is not there the proteins cannot do their work. Muscle spasm and inflammation is caused when the flow of fluids around each muscle cell (muscle fibre) has been completely closed off and the muscle can no longer relax. Relaxation of the muscles requires water around the proteins within the muscle fibres. When we stretch we allow the water back into the muscle fibres and thus around the proteins within.
This feeling of congestion is stored within the muscle sheath and connective tissue surrounding the muscle and this is the part which we are actually stretching and releasing.
Pain is felt by 'nociceptors' found in the skin and throughout the musculoskeletal system. Nociceptors have been found in almost all connective tissue, with the exception of joint cartilage, synovial membranes, and certain parts of the inner vertebral disc. Nociceptive stimulation due to noxious stimuli (inflammation due to accumulation of toxins) has dramatic effects on the nervous system, and has been shown to promote segmental responses such as muscle spasm and increased sympathetic activity. Nociceptor stimulation can also stimulate nerve activity that affects the hypothalamus and can cause sweating, nausea, weakness, pallor and dizziness. A commonly recognized problem in chronic pain is the continuing stimulation of nociceptors. I find that when my clients use VoxxLife products chronic pain is often diminished.
As a massage therapist I always can tell when a person has been doing their stretches – it really does make a difference to your body.
How does cold/hot treatment help my body?
It’s about getting the right amount of fluids around each muscle cell (muscle fibre).
When we apply cold (1 minute of the gel ice pack out of the freezer or a pack of peas) we are sending the fluids deep into the muscle and surrounding tissue; taking that all important water to the cells.
Then, when we apply the hot (3 minutes of wheatie from the microwave or hot water bottle) the body responds by drawing the fluids back out to the surface again – bringing with it the toxins (waste products from cell respiration and metabolism) which have been trapped within the muscle. So this process is helping in 2 ways;
– taking the water deep into the thirsty tissues
- and bringing the rubbish out at the same time.
Repeat 5 times twice a day for real relief from pain associated with tension.
I highly recommend taking a supportive range of food supplements. I recommend Zinzino.
What if the pain is hard to shift?
There may be other systems within our body which are struggling too and we need to support these as well. In particular the immune system which may be triggering the production of cytokines. During research it was shown that levels of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) were decreased after a 1 hour massage after 2.5 hours. A decrease was also seen in the ratio of mature tumor necrosis factor-α, another inflammatory cytokine, to the precursor form immediately after massage. This indicates that massage’s therapeutic effects are linked to molecules that mediate inflammation and pain.
Let me explain in this diagram. .
How do pain killers work?
Paracetamol seems to decrease the production of prostaglandins which cause inflammation.
There are few activity differences between NSAIDs yet the response and tolerance for individuals vary greatly.
Please remember that these morphine-like painkillers are not only acting where we wish to cut out the pain, but also in the brain and other regions of the body where the morphine receptors occur; with unknown effects which may be explained by the side effects on the packet.
To be clear the scientists don't really know for sure the action of pain killers yet it is known that it's something to do with affecting the cytokines and decreasing prostaglandins; and when you switch one level of cytokine off there is another level which the body will switch on as it HAS to keep you well and help you survive. The NSAIDs work by decreasing the inflammatory response of prostaglandins.
What is clear is that pain killers are affecting the fine balance which our body uses to keep us well. They are affecting our immune system and, when used long term, are disrupting our immune system such that, when the pain killers are stopped our system is left in hyper alert laying us open to over reaction to, in particular, viruses and their toxins when they enter our system. It is this hyper alert state which is giving the over powering symptoms we are seeing in some COVID patients. The immune system panics and over-produces, for example, phlegm in the lungs and the inflammatory response in our connective tissue.
I am being controversial here. I wonder if studies were done on those people who suffered badly with COVID there would be a correlation between over reaction and the fact that they had been on pain killers for a length of time. Although pain killers are so very useful we are not being made aware by our GP of just how much they are affecting us and opening us up to further problems down the line.
Understanding what may be happening within your muscles encourages compliance in my clients to persevere with the 'cold hot' instructions and the stretches. We discuss relevant improvements for a Healthy Lifestyle to support your recovery and rehabilitation process.
I begin the process - then you help yourself at home.
Work with me to understand the best way to understand and work with pain
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